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Remembering Vietnam: A Tribute at HGSIC

Updated: Mar 25

In 2017, the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act was signed into law designating March 29th as National Vietnam War Veterans Day as a way for Americans to unite to thank and honor Vietnam veterans and their families for their service and sacrifice.  For the last four years the HGSIC has held a program in March in conjunction with several veterans' organizations including the local American Legion and VFW to honor Indiana County veterans of this long and contested conflict.  This year, the museum committee was able to design an exhibit around this program; one that is dedicated to informing the community about the conflict itself while showcasing images and stories of those who served during the Vietnam War.

Before I started researching for this exhibit, I knew shamefully little about the conflict.  Considering it only happened 50 odd years ago, and that I study history both as a career and as a hobby, my knowledge of modern history is severely lacking.  Even thinking back to high school, the total time spent talking about Vietnam was overshadowed by our discussions of the USSR and Cold War (which was still going on when I was in school so that kind of shows my age).  This conflict was essentially glossed over in favor of other subjects during my high school social studies classes, despite the fact that it lasted for over 20 years and affected an entire generation.  Creating this exhibit would open my eyes to a whole world of information on the decades it occurred and lead to a greater understanding of the turmoil that continuously bubbled throughout the 1960s.

It started with the end of World War II and the ways that the European nations would divide Europe and Asia.  That the United States became embroiled in the Indochina Wars to aid the United Nations and specifically our ally, France, in a war in Korea.  The failure of France and the United States to curb the influence of the USSR and spread of communism in Korea was the deciding factor, so to speak, in our involvement in Vietnam.  I did know a little about the “Red Scare,” but I did not fully understand why the government tried so hard to keep other countries from becoming communist.  In my research for this exhibit, which included reading articles, the Encyclopedia Britannica, and various Vietnam Veterans sites, I ended up having written a 20-page research paper on the role of the United States in the Vietnam conflict.  All of this research is represented within the walls of the exhibit, along with artifacts, photos, and stories of veterans of the War.

I began this project intending for the exhibit to be an objective description of the conflict while honoring the veterans who served.  As a committee, we also wanted to draw attention to those who did not make it home including those who remain missing.  It is important for me, for the committee, and for everyone involved with the HGSIC that we give the veterans of the Vietnam War the same amount of dignity and respect as those of any other conflict in American history.  If you missed the Vietnam War Veterans Day Program on March 22, 2024, you can view it on our YouTube channel. Take some time to honor our Vietnam Veterans on March 29th in any way you choose.  And be sure to visit the HGSIC between now and June 30th if you are interested in learning more about the conflict and how it affected our local community members.

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