The "MY WAR: Wartime Photographs by Vietnam Veterans" exhibition will be opening at the San Juan Islands Museum of Art on April 5, 2019. The museum has a big vision for their programming and community engagement.
They have succeeded in actively engaging local veterans, and will be hosting a parallel exhibition in their North Gallery of photos, writings and artifacts by San Juan County Vietnam War veterans. The title for this exhibition is "A War Never Ends". This will bring recognition to their actual wartime experiences and honors the men and women who carry the scars and memories of that time. They will also be hosting a series of public events with participation of veterans and support organizations.
MY WAR is an exhibition presenting a collection of personal photographs and poetry by Vietnam veterans, offering an all-but-unexplored viewpoint on that war and the men who fought it. Photographed during the war, the memories for these men are indelibly partnered with their collective experiences, and remain vivid decades later. MY WAR invokes both remembrance and dialogue.
Many of the photographs in this exhibition capture the in-between moments. In some cases, in between a friend’s life and death, in between bombing runs or ground offensives, in between here and there, on the road, in wakeful waiting, worrying and hoping, caught in the tedium of teamwork and down moments while ticking away time. Four decades on, these veterans not only continue to pay dearly—emotionally, physically and psychologically— but the added wound of being welcomed home as social pariahs is a lifelong scar that still complicates memory.
These veterans chose to photograph subjects with enduring war themes: the terrain, the camaraderie, the weaponry, the fighting, moments of levity and visual poetry, moments of quiet and signs of life, and its ever-present invisible partner, death.
“As long as my brothers-and-sisters-in-arms have to live beneath the long shadow cast across their lives by the war; as long as there are those who disrespect and condemn the participants in rather than the architects of that terrible, wasteful conflict; as long as there are those unlucky enough to be plagued with psychological and physical afflictions resultant from their participation in the war; as long as our government continues to see and to use armed conflict as the primary and inescapable response to international conflict; as long as each returned veteran fails to receive his due; as long as there remain scores, even hundreds whose fate remains unknown, be they MIA or KIA; I will feel compelled to keep the war from fading, from ending for myself either.” — Steve Maddox, Captain, U.S. Army Infantry, Vietnam 1968/69