- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The different perspectives of American soldiers who fought in the Vietnam War are the pieces that have come together to provide visitors to the Maryland Veterans Memorial Museum a full picture of the war.
“Never Forget” opened May 3 at the museum. Officials were on hand to celebrate the official opening of an exhibit devoted to the Vietnam War and the veterans who served there. The day’s agenda included speeches from the Charles County commissioners and delegates.
Since opening last May, the museum has had exhibits for the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War, World War II and the Korean War. The May 3 opening was for an expanded Vietnam War exhibit the museum previously displayed.
“[The Vietnam War exhibit has] probably been, ever since we opened the museum, probably been the most requested exhibit to have,” Lawrence Abell, president of the museum, said. “We have a lot of veterans that have been bringing items in to us, so in order to respond to the outpouring of personal items that have come in to the museum, we have to create an area to house it.”
The Vietnam War exhibit shows images and items from soldiers who fought in the jungles and wetlands of Vietnam, as well as Vietnamese culture, according to Abell.
“The whole idea is to bring [the Vietnam War] to life,” said Abell, who served in the U.S. Navy in the war. The museum’s focus is on today’s veterans, including veterans of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. The next expansion of an exhibit will probably be for the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran.
The opening of “Never Forget” this year is timely, with the 50th anniversary of the start of the Vietnam War last year.
“The 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War is a time to reflect on the patriotism of the brave Americans who served faithfully,” Charles County Commissioners’ President Candice Quinn Kelly (D) said in an email statement. “It is also a time to honor the courage of those taken prisoner or missing in action, and the sacrifices of the loved ones they left behind. I am so thankful for all they gave for our country.”
Abell said that the idea for the museum’s Vietnam War exhibit is to share the experiences and emotions of the American soldiers, as well as the activities they were involved in during the war.
Commissioners’ Vice President Reuben B. Collins, II (D) said in an email statement that “recalling the stories of Vietnam War heroes who fought such a long, difficult battle but never lost faith or pride in their country” is an inspiration to him.
“We owe them a debt so great for their service, it could never be repaid,” Collins said.
Recognition for veterans of the Vietnam War is long overdue, Commissioner Ken Robinson (D) said.
“We should never equate popularity with the service and sacrifice given by the brave men and women who represented our country’s best in Vietnam,” Robinson said.
Abell served as a design officer in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969. He designed naval bases, bridges, hospitals, ports and more for the U.S. Navy and the Vietnamese.
Before going to Vietnam, Abell said that Americans supported the war, but when he returned and attended college at the University of Maryland, College Park, he quickly realized it was not a good idea for him to wear his uniform on campus.
“If you were in Vietnam, you had no idea that there was a transformation taking place in [the U.S.],” Abell said. That part of serving in the Vietnam War, Abell said, is painful for him and for a lot of other Vietnam War veterans.
Later, Abell said, more items will be added to the exhibit, including a small replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.