Today, I got to spend some time viewing “The Face of War” exhibit at Cardinal Stritch University. This exhibit display a large number of color and b+w photos from the Vietnam War. This exhibition is up until July 31 and I really suggest you go see it, if at possible.
This viewing was special to me because I was able to see it with my parents – Gary and Mary Ann Freund – and my aunt and uncle – Jim and Mary Kay Etten. Dad and Uncle Jim are both Vietnam vets and they both spoke about their experiences in-country, and Mom and Mary Kay shared their memories of that time too, from States-side.
Whenever I view photos, I try to see them for more than just their aesthetic considerations. I really try to imagine what the scene depicted must have sounded, smelled, or felt like. Seeing this show was different though–I didn’t need to imagine what the sound of the cannons was like, or the tension of manning a side-gun on a helicopter with soldiers who didn’t want to disembark, or to be in a jeep driving fast down a dirt-road while worrying that snipers might be perched in the otherwise-scenic rows of trees. I could just ask the two men beside me. My Dad and my uncle had been there, had gone through these experiences.
I have been lucky in my life. I’ve been surrounded by loving family all my years. I was raised on a dairy farm in scenic WI. I didn’t go to war. I wasn’t drafted into the service. I almost joined the army, but I admit, backed out when I got a decent financial aid package, allowing me to go to art school. I often wonder how my life would have been different if I had been in the army for a few years.
Seeing these photos, hearing Dad and Uncle Jim’s stories, has convinced me all the more (as though there was every any doubt) of the importance of our servicemen and women. We live in a country with a voluntary military service. We owe it to them to do everything in our power to care for them while they train, while they serve and, even more importantly, once they return to civilian life.