An exhibit, “Tribute: Expressions of Loss and Remembrance by Vietnam Veterans,” opens at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center in Texas on June 5. More than two years in the making, the exhibit includes the work of Vietnam veterans from more than a dozen states and all branches of the military and was put together by the National Vietnam War Museum in nearby Mineral Wells, Texas. The Opening reception on June 5, from 6:00- 9:00 p.m., will feature a performance by Air Force veteran and musician Dick Jonas.
The exhibit consists of photographs, artwork and material from the National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum in Chicago created by Vietnam veterans dedicated to those who perished in the war. Participants include former fighter pilots, combat medics, helicopter door gunners, and infantrymen. Highlights include an ammunition box memorial by the 1/9 (Walking Dead) Marines, artwork by Aurence Hancock (above), Charles Jones, Rick McCarty, evacuation nurse Helen White and multimedia tributes.
During the week before the opening, San Antonio artist and veteran Roberto Sifuentes will create a “Day of the Dead” altar at the Arts Center to honor the 173rd Airborne and others lost in the war. Observers and participants are welcome to help. Veterans, friends and family members are invited to send or bring photos or small mementos to be included in Sifuentes installation.
The National Vietnam War Museum project began in 1998 to develop a national venue that would create an atmosphere of learning about the Vietnam War era, and engage people of all ages, nationalities, and political points of view. In 1999, the museum purchased a 12-acre site in Mineral Wells, Texas, some 50 miles west of Fort Worth.
Country music singer/songwriter Ricky Lee’s new song, “Cardboard Hero,” is a tribute to homeless veterans. The song will be on his CD, “Ordinary Man,” which will be released in June.
Lee has written other songs about veterans, including “A Soldier Like You” and “She’s An American Soldier. “They’re featured on his three CD’s, which may be downloaded from Lee’s website. Said site also contains info on the American Freedom Concert Tour, which Lee produces and which benefits active-duty military and their families in need.
Submissions are now being accepted, through October 15, for “Wounded in Action: An Exhibition of Orthopaedic Advancements in Art,” a juried exhibit that will be held in March 2010 at the Morial Convention Center in New Orleans in conjunction with the annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. The exhibit will commemorate American service personnel who have had orthopaedic injuries as a result of serving our country in war.
The academy, along with the Orthopaedic Research Society, the Orthopaedic Trauma Association, and the Society of Military Orthopaedic Surgeons are co-sponsoring the exhibit. The show also is designed to recognize orthopaedic surgeons who have provided medical care for wounded warriors as well as civilians who have been affected by war.
The exhibit is open to artists in three categories: (1) Military personnel who have sustained orthopaedic or musculoskeletal injuries in any war or family members of any age who have been affected by those injuries; (2) Orthopaedic surgeons who have provided medical care for wounded warriors, either in military or civilian capacities; and (3) Injured civilians or artists of any age whose lives have been affected by war and have been touched in some way by the loss of extremity or other musculoskeletal injuries of war.
On Friday, May 22, the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland, will present a screening of the documentary, Muse of Fire, a film by Lawrence Bridges that looks at the National Endowment for the Arts’ Operation Homecoming project, which brings together some of the nations top writers (many of whom are Vietnam veterans) and aspiring young veteran writers. Jon Peede, NEA’s Director of Literature Grants Programs and a driving force behind Operation Homecoming, will introduce the film. He will lead a roundtable Q&A after the showing with the poet E. Ethelbert Miller, workshop instructor James Mathews, and one or two workshop participants. The Writer’s Center is located at 4508 Walsh Street in downtown Bethesda. The event is free and open to the public. To register, go to the center’s website. Muse of Fire includes readings and interviews with U.S. troops and their families, along with commentary from a slew of authors and actors who took part in the program. That includes Dana Gioia, Mark Bowden, Ray bradbury, Jeff Shaara, and Andrew Carroll. The original Operation Homecoming workshop participants included Vietnam veteran writers Tobias Wolff, Joe Haldeman, and Richard Currey.
Hugh Van Es, the Dutch photojournalist who took one of the most iconic photographs of the Vietnam War–the people lined up to board a CIA helicopter on a Saigon apartment building rooftop (not the U.S. embassay as has often been misreported) on April 29, 1975–died on May 15 in Hong Kong where he had long lived. He was was 67 years old and had had a brain hemorrhage.
“Obviously he will be always remembered as one of the great witnesses of one of the great dramas in the second half of the 20th century,” said Ernst Herb, president of Hong Kong’s Foreign Correspondent Club.
Van Es had covered the Vietnam War beginning in 1968 when he worked as a soundman for NBC News. He then took photos for The Associated Press (1969-72) and United Press International (1972-75).
The rooftop photo stands as a symbol of the inglorious end of the U.S. presence in Vietnam. It took on new life when it was recreated on stage in the popular Broadway musical, Miss Saigon.
The big National Memorial Day Parade in Washington steps off at 2:00 p.m on Monday, May 25. This is the formerly annual event that took a 70-year hiatus and was re-established four years ago.
The parade’s organizers, the American Veterans Center of Arlington, Virginia, tell me it’s the largest Memorial Day in the nation. They expect a crowd of some 250,000 to honor America’s veterans and those who did not come home from America’s wars. The parade will include marching bands, veteran units, and uniformed military personnel.
This year there will be a special tribute to the U.S. Navy that will include Navy veteran Ernest Borgnine, along with actors Gary Sinise and Joe Mantegna, and country music star Lee Greenwood. For more info go to the parade’s web site.
When you think of entertainment for the troops in Vietnam during the war, you naturally think of the Bob Hope USO extravaganzas. But the U.S. military also provided lots of stage entertainment–including rock music by Philippine bands, comedians from the states, and folk, soul, country and rock bands and even musical comedies performed by Special Service GI’s under a unit called the Command Military Touring Shows.
That includes 1969-70 run of the famed Off Off Broadway sensation, The Fantasticks, put together by a group of eleven soldiers and one female civilian employee. There’s a great article about that not very well known production in the current issue of Esopus, the eccentric, eclectic, glossy black and white nonprofit arts magazine.
The article, “OFF-OFF-OFF BROADWAY,” is an oral history by four of the GI’s who were in the show: Rick Holen, Joe Mauro, John Nutt, and Bob Sevra.
“The GIs seemed to be transported to another plane of existence during the performances,” Holen says. “The play lasted only about an hour and a half, but for that short period of time, we felt that we could put at least a temporary stop to the death and devastation, the boredom and total terror of war. The audiences would sometimes give us a standing ovation for five minutes. That is the magic of theater.”
VVA life member Ira Cooperman once again this year will be teaching the “Remembering the Vietnam War” course at the Chautauqua Institution in New York. Cooperman, who served as a USAF intelligence officer in Vietnam and Thailand in 1965-66, developed the course last year with Bob Hopper, a former Foreign Service Officer.
The course is part of Chautauqua’s Special Studies program of weekly classes, and will be held from July 27-31 from 9:00–10:15 a.m. Cooperman and Hopper will examine the history, impact and consequences of America’s involvement in Vietnam and Southeast Asia from 1955-75 through personal experiences, literature and films.
During once class last summer the instructors and students discussed Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. This summer they will be discussing one of Philip Caputo’s works. You can read the entire course description at the Special Studies page.
“If any VVA member is interested in registering for this summer’s course, I’d be pleased to help them through the process,” Cooperman told us. Email him at email@example.com
The new 40-minute documentary, In My Living Room, consists of reflections about the Vietnam War by Pat Toal, a federal administrative court judge in Chicago who did a tour as an Army artilleryman in Vietnam in 1968. Director Harriet Spizziri asks a few on-camera questions (“Can you tell me what a Bronze Star is?”) and Toal responds for a good 35 minutes sitting in the director’s livingroom. Many of his answers are illuminating and insightful. Spizziri, who is a stage director in the Windy City, intersperses Taol’s musings with still photos of him in Vietnam, footage of antiwar protests and lots of images of artwork, many of them disturbing, from drawings and paintings by Vietnam veterans from the National Vietnam Veterans Art Musuem in Chicago. You can learn more about this documentary and see a clip, at the film’s website.