Fallen Feather Project
Alissa Widman Neese
Jul 4, 2013 at 2:19 PM
Sherrie Clark stood in silence reflecting on a simple, but significant creation.
Despite the incessant whirring of nearby wood-slicing blades, all was calm as the experienced woodcarver touched the smooth surface of a delicately engraved feather.
Adorned with a pink rose, which represents appreciation, it reads: Capt. Roselle Hoffmaster, U.S. Army, killed in Iraq in 2007.
Clark, a military mother, is no stranger to the perils of war. She recently began utilizing her well-honed skills to show other military families their sacrifices aren't unnoticed.
Professional woodcarvers such as Clark across the state joined forces this year to create a military monument called the Fallen Feather Project.
Its goal: carve a one-of-a-kind wooden feather for each Ohio military member killed in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Clark leads a local branch of the project at Woodcarver's Den in Bellevue. An array of wooden feathers from the den, 63 total, will soon join nearly 300 others for a permanent display honoring Ohio's fallen heroes. Each quill will bear the military member's name and be placed in a .50-caliber shell casing.
"One of our carvers told us about it and we thought it was a great idea," Clark said. "It's our way of saying 'thank you.'"
Graham Webb III, of Columbus, started the project after a chance encounter with a fallen hawk feather in his friend's backyard. The relatively new artist started carving a wooden replica of the feather to pass the time, which sparked an idea for a project.
Webb volunteers with Patriot Guard Riders, an organization which offers protection from protestors at military funerals. At a ceremony for three Ohio soldiers killed during war, he presented their company with three wooden eagle feathers bearing their names.
"It greatly affected them, because the support, fellowship and love present that day gave them some closure," Webb said. "I thought, 'Why can't we make this happen for everyone?'"
Days later, the Fallen Feather Project officially began. The grassroots effort has spread statewide, mostly using social media and word of mouth.
Delicate, yet durable, no two wooden feathers are alike. They're painted, embellished, burned and engraved. All are modeled after the primary flight feather of an Ohio bald eagle. Fallen Feather Project wood, carvers and military members honored are all-Ohio, too.
Webb aspires to make the project as personal as possible. Each artist is allowed flexibility and creativity to showcase their individual carving strengths. Many also research details about the military member they're honoring, which impacts their final designs.
But if you ask the carvers, the project isn't about them or their creations — it's about gratitude.
"It's a small thing we can do to honor someone who gave so much," said carver and U.S. Navy veteran Bob Ommert, of Bellevue.
Webb expects the Fallen Feather Project will be fully assembled early next year for a temporary traveling display. He then hopes to find it a permanent home.
In addition to recognizing the military members' sacrifices and providing a reflective space for their friends and family members, the carvers said they also hope the Fallen Feather Project will remind observers of the consequences of going to war.
"We hope Ohio's project can be used as a model for the rest of the country someday," Webb said. "That way each state and every soldier will have a memorial where people can recognize their own fallen."
Click here for photos of locally carved feathers.
Want to help?
Nearly 100 feathers for Ohio soldiers are still in need of carving. Carvers who want to participate in the Fallen Feather Project should email firstname.lastname@example.org.
To keep up-to-date with the project's progress, visit its Facebook page.
Local military men honored in Fallen Feather Project:
•Charles Adkins, of Sandusky, U.S. Army sergeant first class, killed April 16, 2011
•Patrick Carroll, of Norwalk, U.S. Army sergeant, killed Feb. 7, 2011
•Keith Kline, of Oak Harbor, U.S. Army sergeant, killed July 5, 2007
•Jonathon Martin, of Bellevue, U.S. Army staff sergeant, killed Nov. 22, 2007
•Charles Odums II, of Sandusky, U.S. Army specialist, killed May 30, 2004
•Jason Sparks, of Monroeville, U.S. Army private first class, killed Sept. 8, 2004