“Some of the things are quite decorative and quite beautiful,” Hansen said. “My grandchildren tease me. They say, ‘Grandpa lives in a museum.’”
Hansen, retired Command Sergeant Major of the 32nd Brigade Wisconsin Army National Guard and a graduate of Silver Lake College, plans to share some of his collection in an exhibit at Silver Lake College.
“A journey from the Hindu Kush to the Tigris River: A Soldier’s Story Told in Artifacts and Pictures” will run from June 10 through Aug. 5 in the Donald P. Taylor Gallery, located in the Main Hall on campus at 2406 S. Alverno Road, Manitowoc.
Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. The exhibit is free and open to the public. A public reception for Hansen will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. on June 11 at the gallery.
“Through artifacts and personal narratives, he is not only introducing us to his life but to different cultures,” said Erin LaBonte, Assistant Professor of Art at Silver Lake College. “Objects have an exciting ability to share stories and make connections between people on opposite sides of the globe.”
Hansen learned a lot about the world after he joined the U.S. Army in 1968 and served two tours in Vietnam. He was later transferred to other divisions and served additional tours of duty in various locations before he returned to Manitowoc in 1980.
Hansen enrolled at Silver Lake College and graduated cum laude in 1984 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration with a minor in Communications.
In 1990 he joined the Wisconsin Army National Guard, and in 1996 he returned to Silver Lake College to earn his Master of Arts Degree in Organizational Behavior with a focus in Quality.
The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks changed America and the course of his life, Hansen said.
In 2003, he was deployed to Afghanistan with the mission of training the new Afghan National Army.
“We had Afghan soldiers from all over Afghanistan — different tribes, religions, ethnicities, languages,” Hansen said. “We tried to build an Army; it was frustrating. Afghan culture is so different, yet in the soldiers we often saw the same personality types we saw in our own Guard soldiers. You couldn’t help but like these guys despite their very interesting ways.”
In his travels from Kabul to Kandahar, he gathered items that caught his eye. Each artifact and photo in the exhibit has a story behind it.
“When Afghans were displaced from their villages, they often began to sell family heirlooms,” Hansen said.
Among the items on display will be an ornate metal jewelry box with a decorative bird perched on top, which he bought from a vendor at a bazaar near Kabul.
“In 2006 I went to Iraq via Kuwait," Hansen said. "It was during the sand storm season and the air was constantly filled with dust. Again, our job was to train soldiers, this time an Iraqi Brigade. At military training base Caldwell, I met two Iraqi brothers who ran a business bringing in items for sale.”
He bought numerous items from them, including metal vases in various sizes embossed with figures depicting local lore.
In 2009, Hansen was the Senior Sergeant of the 32nd Infantry Brigade combat team Red Arrow when its 3,200 primarily Wisconsin soldiers were deployed to Iraq.
“I got to see all of Baghdad from the air and much of Iraq,” Hansen said. “I also got a chance to bring back some interesting pieces. Again, they each have a story to tell.”
(photo caption: Edgar Hansen of Manitowoc holds an ornate metal jewelry box and matching ink well that he acquired when he was stationed with the Wisconsin National Guard in Afghanistan and Iraq between 2003 and 2010)