“The exhibit gives us an opportunity to view the horrors of war and know that we must do everything in our power to prevent future wars.”
-from the Commentary Book
We had a successful exhibit launch in Santa Fe. The Santa Fe VFP chapter turned out in force to set the exhibit up in the Museo El Centro in the Railyard district. One of the local papers sent a photographer to shoot the set up and featured the exhibit on the front page in the morning. We had a steady stream of participants over the long weekend.
The exhibit invited heartfelt engagement with the attending VFP members. Most people didn’t just cruise through; they took time to read the panels. Many built collages. Most wanted to tell their stories. In the Commentary Book that travels with the exhibit, participants took time to share thoughts, feelings, experiences including this comment:
“As a 17 year old I sailed up the Saigon River on a merchant ship in August, 1976. The banks of the river were defoliated by Agent Orange for a mile or two on either side. The legacy of America’s Vietnam War will continue for generations.
In 1970 I gave up my college student deferment, submitted to and refused induction in the Army. I was tried and convicted in federal court a year later, but was sentenced to two years probation! Resistance is necessary then as it is now. Witness to what has passed — the My Lai Exhibit — reminds us that witness is always necessary — then, now, and in the future.”
I was moved by the openness and the depth of the conversations that were stimulated by the exhibit experience, and the connections that participants made with each other. I was also grateful to the VFP members who worked patiently as a team with me as we dealt with all the challenges involved in setting the exhibit up for the first time. Our initiation in Santa Fe was a wonderful beginning for our West Coast tour.