Friday, January 11, 2008


from my journal, 1-10-08

The 2 young men walked into the gallery for the first time about 2 years ago. As I do with all visitors I welcomed them to Gallery 5, introduced myself, and learned that they were members of the 101st Airborne stationed in nearby Fort Campbell. They were interested in art and were visiting the Lowertown galleries for the first time. They were quiet, but not shy, and spent a great deal of time looking at all the art and seemed to enjoy just being in the gallery and studio. Yes, they had served in Iraq and were glad to be back home. I remember being impressed at how nonplussed they were about that, as if it was all very routine. I also remember the uncertainty I felt trying to understand what appeared to be a contradicion, 2 young, very professional appearing soldiers so interested in art.

I told them I would take 50% off the price of anything they wanted, and Richard bought a small clay mono type. David told me how his father would enjoy seeing my work since he worked creating art for the major studios in Hollywood.

Over the next 12-18 months they returned 3 or 4 times, each time spending no less than 30-45 minutes looking at the art and talking about how they enjoyed the opportunity to do so. David spoke frequently and fondly about his father who obviously instilled in his son the appreciation of art.. They were both anticipating returning to Iraq in the fall of 2007 with their now familiar casualess. David’s wife accompanied them on these visits, and on their last visit his dad was with them. He seemed to enjoy the art just as his son said he would and that visit lasted well over and hour.. When they left my last words to them were, “take care of yourselves and come back to see me”. I admired them for their uncomplaining commitment to their tasks as soldiers, simply doing what was expected of them.

This morning the studio phone rang and the caller ID listed an out of town number I did not recognize. As soon as David’s dad identified himself, his voice flat and halting, I knew, and the tears began as he told me that “David fell”: he was killed by a sniper’s bullet while on patrol 2 days ago. The pain and grief in his voice was palpable. My own grief was immediate and uncontrollable, made worse when he told me how much David enjoyed his visits to my gallery and would I please send a copy of my book to David’s wife, and one to him. It seems such a small thing to do for such a great sacrifice.

That was early this morning. Now my sadness is accompanied by anger. I am angry that we are told we are at war, and yet nothing is asked of us. Our military is at war, the thousands of young men and women who are in Iraq, and those that have been there are at war. Their families, parents, spouses, children, and other loved ones are at war. Richard is at war and David was at war. David’s death has made the war personal for me.

An “I support our troops” bumper sticker doesn’t do it. All americans should be sharing the sacrifices that these young men and women and their families are bearing. It is the responsibility of our leaders to show us how. Instead we are not allowed to see and feel the tragedies of war, it is hidden from us, presented only in a sanitized form. And that is a disservice to David, his family and his comrades. My anger is not about whether or not this is a justifiable war, it is about the way in which it is not allowed to truly enter into our collective consciousness. It is about the leaders who are afraid to ask the country to make any real sacrifices because we have this wonderful all volunteer military, and they can do it for us.

(I will complete the Paducah artist relocation program tomorrow)


dog face girls said...

Oh Bill, thank you so much for this post. Having been in the Army and married to a retired soldier. It is very sad indeed that the citizens of this country have been lied to and mislead by the very person(s) we have entrusted this country to.



Villager said...

This post was very moving. It is tragic that the only people paying for this war today are our soldiers and their families. In the past, this country had the decency of asking everyone to share the sacrifices. Today, this whole country is being run on a credit card. Our children and grandchildren are going to pay very dearly for it.

Terry Banderas said...

This is a very nice post. I share your thoughts and feelings. I talk to younger people on occasions and most have no clue about the war, who is running in elections, and can barely work an eight hour day. They trash this planet by wasting gas, littering and taking 45 minute showers and think that someone else will take care of it--but more importantly aren't even aware that it's a problem. We live in a retirement community. We have been part of sending goods to our soldiers in Iraq and Afganistan. That's what I feel we can do. We have helped hold auctions, bake sales and solicit merchants for donations. Nearly everyone helps but it takes groups to come along and spearhead these projects.I share your concerns. God bless you.

timeisoftheessence said...

Man you just tore me up! Tears streaming down my face. It is such a tragedy that this had to happen. I won't post my political opinions though, as I would be expressing mostly anger. My heart goes out to your friend's parents.

Linda said...

So sad -- too sad to know what to say. Thank you for sharing this -- and I promise to look for some way to do more than just sport a bumper sticker. I promise.

Jean Levert Hood said...

William, I want to thank you for this post, for sharing your grief, for we all shoulder this heavy burden. So much sorrow.
May God bless and comfort all who knew and loved David.
thank you again,

coasterwiggs said...

The news here in Nashville says David's death is being investigated as a possible friendly fire incident. So sad.

coasterwiggs said...

The news here in Nashville says David's death is being investigated as a possible friendly fire incident. So sad.

William F. Renzulli said...

THAT would truly be tragic. Our local paper had only a brief note about the deaths of the 3 airmen saying they were being investigated. I tried not to read between the lines, not wanting it to be anything but a combat death by enemy fire.

Thank you coasterwiggs and others for your comments.

Peanut said...

Bill I am sorry for the loss of your friend. Here is an article about how it may be from friendly fire.
Thank you for seeing the sacrifice that we as military families make. It isn't that we want everyone to make those or even different sacrifices. We just want ours to be acknowledged and that doesn't happen often enough.
p.s. I love your work :)

davidsheart said...


Thank you for the book and your blog. Gallary 5 was one of David's favorite places to go. It was a place for him to unwind... away from work. He always wanted to stay longer and play with your clay table. David admired you, Bill. Thank you for extending a patient hand and a brief but long-lasting friendship.

There is more information about David in the January 16th issue of the Los Angeles Times. It was not friendly fire. David's death wasn't an accident. He and his boys fought hard that day... They were not victims to circumstance, but warriors in a battle they chose to fight. They've made us all so very proud. These boys were heros before January 8th. And we thank you so very much for your support and love. It is much needed.

Many Thanks,
Nicole Hart (David's wife)
and Richard (friend)

amy_renzulli said...

Dad, I remember your telling me about David and Richard's visit to the gallery on the phone one day. I know that their visit that day left an impression on you.

Reading this post and all of the comments makes me think of Grandma Renzulli. Her funeral was the first one I ever attended. I remember listening to people talk about what she meant to them. One of the things that has stuck with me over the years was that she always shared a love of art and creativity with those around her. I vowed to myself to try to be that way to others. I thought that if I could do that, it would be a way to honor her life. I guess, like Grandma, you did that with David. So if you ever wonder what you are doing or why, it is because you don't have a choice. Your are Grandma and Grandpa Renzulli's son. Your warmth, artistic ability and good humor are your gift and you shared it with two strangers. Perhaps their visits provided some beauty and peace for those moments.

Nicole, Richard and Family, I am so sad for your loss. Amy