Vietnam War exhibit opens at Besser Museum

Besser Museum for Northeast Michigan pays tribute to veterans of the Vietnam War with a new exhibit of artifacts and photographs. An opening reception for the public takes place today from 1-4 p.m.

The museum previously put together extensive exhibits honoring World War II and Korean War veterans. This latest exhibit initially was planned to coincide with the Vietnam War-themed Wings Over Alpena air show. Although that summertime event ultimately was canceled, the museum opted to proceed with its plans to honor soldiers from the Vietnam War era.

“The exhibit represents 40 veterans, and we’re getting close to 400 items,” said Facilities and Exhibits Director Randy Shultz.

Shultz began in January seeking items on a loan basis. Along with the many artifacts, families members and veterans also shared their personal stories of a difficult chapter in America’s history.

“So many veterans brought in photos,” he said. “That’s what’s pretty amazing – you are literally seeing the action.”

Among those stories relayed to Shultz is one concerning the first soldier from Northeast Michigan who was declared Missing in Action and then Killed in Action during the war. That personal story, poignantly told through a series of telegrams, is depicted at the entrance to Wilson Gallery.

Watches, lighters, medals, uniforms and weaponry also are among the many items displayed. Music from the era plays continuously in the background, with 55 songs handpicked by the veterans who loaned their items for the exhibit.

Local artists DeLynn Medina and Marilyn Thom added their special touch as well with three large-size murals that help to further illustrate various aspects related to the war.

A large display in the center of the gallery has been set up to replicate a field camp. It is ringed in barbed wire and sandbags, with a large parachute hanging overhead to reduce the lighting and make the effect more like being under the canopy of a rainforest, Shultz said.

The exhibit will remain up through October. A special highlight comes in September when the Michigan Vietnam Veterans Traveling Memorial Wall arrives at the museum. Shultz said it is scheduled to be in Alpena Sept. 26-28.

For more information about the Vietnam War: A Tribute Exhibit, contact the museum at 356-2202.