Utah Honor Flight Veterans Visit National Archives’ “Remembering Vietnam” Exhibit
By Kerri Lawrence | National Archives News
WASHINGTON, November 14, 2017 — Forty-eight Vietnam War veterans came from Utah as part of an Honor Flight to the National Archives in Washington, DC, where they attended the November 10 public opening of the “Remembering Vietnam” exhibit, in conjunction with the observance of the Veterans Day holiday.
Archivist of the United States and fellow Vietnam War veteran David S. Ferriero welcomed the veterans to the National Archives amidst the Founding Documents—the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights—in the National Archives Rotunda.
“As a veteran of the Vietnam War, I was determined to mark the 50th anniversary of the height of the Vietnam War with an exhibition here at the National Archives,” Ferriero said.
“Today it is with great pride that this exhibit opens,” Ferriero continued. “It is a collection of newly discovered and iconic original documents, images, film footage, and artifacts that illuminate 12 critical episodes in the war that divided the peoples of both the United States and Vietnam.”
Keynote speaker Earl Morse, co-founder of the Honor Flight Network, shared his experience as the son of a Vietnam soldier and his memories as an elementary student living on a military base during the war. He told how three times during his childhood he watched fellow students being told their fathers would not return alive from battle. He shared how his own father’s silence about the war after his return truly affected their whole family.
“The opening of this exhibit means a long-overdue recognition for some incredibly brave warriors who risked their lives for the sake of this country,” Morse said. “The Vietnam vets fought a war on two fronts: they fought it on the battlefield and they fought it when they came home. For them to finally get this long-overdue recognition, it warms my heart.”
Many of the men who attended were visibly touched; the exhibit seemed to bring out many emotions and memories that were clearly still strong in their minds decades later.
“It’s a welcome home,” said U.S. Army veteran Ron Thorn of Richfield, Utah, his voice wavering with emotion. “It’s recognition . . . it’s forgiveness.”
Pausing to gather his thoughts, Thorn added, “Having a chance to see this for the first time is almost hard to describe. It’s the 50 years of avoiding it, and now finally seeing the recognition that everyone who served deserves...this exhibit is over the top...this is beautiful.”
Roger Clegg, David Pratz, and Ralph Esparza viewed an interactive map of the war zone within the exhibit, sharing their own personal stories and memories from the trying times of war.
“It brings brings back so many memories and puts tears in your eyes,” Clegg said. “It’s tough. When we came home we were treated horribly.” He told how many military men and women were spat upon when they returned from the war. He told of the disrespect so many showed for those who answered the nation’s call and went to fight.
Esparza shared that the exhibit brought back many vivid memories for him.
“When we actually see it again, it does remind us as if it were yesterday. We recognize a lot of things that have happened in our lives and Vietnam that are right here,” Esparza said. “This exhibit has truly captured it. . . . it’s a real tribute to all the services who were there to live it.”
While in our nation's capital, the veterans also visited memorials and other important sites throughout the city. According to Honor Flight officials, this Honor Flight was special for two reasons: First, this flight consisted solely of Vietnam veterans, marking the first time veterans from Vietnam were singled out. Second, the veterans were invited to be the very first group to publicly view the interactive, media-rich exhibit on the day it was opened to the public.
“Remembering Vietnam” will be open until January 9, 2019. The exhibit explores 12 critical episodes in the Vietnam War and seeks to answer questions about this turbulent period in American history. Read more about the exhibit at Archives.gov, AOTUS blog post, Prologue magazine, and the Unwritten Record blog.
The grand opening of the exhibit also featured three original Vietnam War–era helicopters on display on the National Archives grounds—the Bell AH-1 Cobra, the Bell UH-1 Iroquois, and the Bell OH-58 Kiowa. The North Carolina Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association arrived after dark on November 6 and installed the helicopters, where they remained through opening weekend of the new exhibit until Monday, November 13.
The public was able to tour the aircraft and speak to members of the association, who were all pilots of these types of aircraft during the war.
In addition, free public programs—including author lectures, panel discussions, and films centered on the Vietnam War era—have been featured this fall and continue throughout the coming months. For more information on these events, see the online Calendar of Events.
To read more about the Vietnam War and see the resources available at the National Archives, visit this dedicated page on the Vietnam War.