It started with three wooden feathers.
Graham Webb III and two other carvers gave them as a tribute to three Ohioans who died in 2012 in Afghanistan.
And then it occurred to Webb that every Ohio soldier who fell in Afghanistan or Iraq deserved one.
“I’ll tell you the truth: I did not want to do this,” he said. “I knew how much work it would be, and I knew it would cost a little bit of money.
“But God kept talking to me and made me do it. It needed to be done.”
Two years later, Webb — a retired Army recruiter — has assembled 276 wooden eagle feathers, each bearing the name of a fallen Ohioan.
He enlisted the talents of woodcarvers from throughout the state to produce them. They come in different woods and finishes, but all bear the name of a soldier and, in some cases, the date of death.
One feather reads: Keith Nepsa, Army, 1986-2007
Another: Spc. William S. Blevins, U.S. Army, KIA Afghanistan May 23, 2011
Whoever carved the feather for Marine Lance Cpl. Dustin R. Fitzgerald (1981-2004) included a quotation: “Never had an enemy.”
Webb also plans to produce a book detailing the lives of these service members.
This week, he was at the Columbus Idea Foundry, a community work space at 421 W. State St., putting the finishing touches on the Fallen Feather Project.
The display is heavy on symbolism.
Each feather will be placed in a .50-caliber shell casing. The casings will hang on a 5-by-10-foot board of buckeye wood. A carved eagle, its face turned toward the olive branches in its right talon rather than the arrows in its left, will loom atop the display. A tear drips from its eye.
Don Neff, 81, of Dublin, carved several of the feathers. He said he liked both the cause and the challenge, as feathers are difficult to create.
The project cost about $3,000, most of it supplied by Webb. He received in-kind donations of wood, stain, shell casings and other things.
Most of the families whose loved ones are represented by the feathers are aware of the memorial, and Webb is working to contact the rest of them.
Jenny Rozanski, of Dublin, said she was touched by the feather carved in memory of her husband, Ohio National Guard Capt. Nicholas Rozanski, who was killed in 2012 in Afghanistan.
“I thought it was really beautiful and a really nice tribute.”
Other families have said they aren’t ready to see the feathers, Webb said.
Emotions remain raw.
The display will be shown on May 30 and June 1 at the Idea Foundry. Then it will move to the Statehouse, where it will stay through July 4 before moving to its permanent home at the Ohio Military Museum in Massillon.
Then, Webb will turn to a bigger undertaking.
He wants to organize woodcarvers throughout the country so that, just as in Ohio, every fallen soldier in the United States has a feather.