National exhibit on the Iron Range personalizes the war in Iraq

By KBJR News 1

January 15, 2014 Updated Jan 16, 2014 at 1:22 PM CDT

Virginia, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- Noah Pierce took his own life in July of 2007.

"Noah was a very awesome young man, very kind, sensitive," said Noah's mother Cheryl Softich.

But after fighting for the Army in Iraq, he realized the horrors he'd encountered were too much to bear.

"The spark was out of his eyes, he was angry, he was uptight, he was edgy," said Cheryl.

His mother says Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, was what led Noah to end his own life.

"He was scared and he had the urge to kill or to hurt, because they trained him to be a killer."

And after a night where Noah attempted to strangle his own sister, his mother says he was too afraid of what he was capable of doing to his family.

Although Noah had the hard exterior of a soldier, inside beat the heart of a poet.

"When he was suffering so bad I told him to write, because that's what I do when I'm stressed. I told him, 'write Noah. Just get it... if you can't talk about it write about it,'" said his mom.

Writings, that became poems, about the war and his experiences overseas.

Poems that eventually made it to the hands of a Nevada woman, who saw their potential and put them on display.

"You read the work that the veterans posted, you walk out feeling different then when you walked in," said David Dailey, dean of students at Mesabi Range Community College in Virginia.

Noah's work has been featured in a national exhibit, and is now being displayed at Mesabi Range College in Virginia.

"This exhibit is meant to personalize what has been branded as an impersonal war," said Dailey.

And though the thousands of soldiers may not be here physically...

"Our biggest fear is that our child will be forgotten. Everybody in 'Always Lost' will always be remembered," said Cheryl.

The 'Always Lost' exhibit's grand opening will be held at the Mesabi Range College in Virginia on Thursday at 4:30pm.

Elsa Robins