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Ventura County Museum helps local Vietnam Veterans heal

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Ventura County Museum helps local Vietnam Veterans heal

Lynnette Satterfield, Editor

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Vietnam Veterans in Ventura County, California, had an outlet for their pain and PTSD from the war when the exhibit titled “We Remember Ventura County to Vietnam and Back” was on display from April through August. Constructed to look like Vietnam with actual items from the war and photos of Ventura County’s fallen soldiers, this exhibit helped Vietnam veterans deal with their feelings about the war.

Museums visitors services employee Sara Thomas, 64, from Ventura, said, “The museum got a lot of calls from wives [of veterans] who said their husbands had never said anything about the Vietnam war, and they wanted to bring them there, and they were wondering if it would be okay.” The employees of the museum had been told by a counselor who specialized in counseling veterans to inform visitors that the museum was a safe place.

More than 8,500 people visited the exhibit, the majority of them veterans and their families. Thomas said the exhibit allowed her and the other staff “to become very close to a lot of the veterans and their families.” One man brought in his duffle bag from the war, which he had never opened since he returned. He opened it and gave its contents to the museum, including his mud-caked boots. Tears streamed down his face.

Having the highest number of visitors for an exhibit since the Ventura County Museum opened 100 years ago, this exhibit helped veterans and their families heal from the shadow the Vietnam War casts on so many Americans even today. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ 2010 Suicide Data Report, 18 to 22 veterans kill themselves each day, and this number has remained consistent over the past 10 years.

The report also says that 44 percent of these suicides were men over 50—most of them Vietnam veterans. It was hoped that this exhibit would help prevent some these men from becoming part of these statistics and make it easier for some to let go of at least some of the memories they have held onto for so long.

The exhibit was filmmaker and Vietnam veteran George Sandoval’s idea. He said he wanted to do the exhibit to “honor the 115 men who were from Ventura County and died in the Vietnam War, welcome and thank the veterans in Ventura County, and to educate the public.”

Sandoval worked tirelessly for a year to help bring this exhibit to life. He and the museum conceived the idea for the exhibit in February 2014. Toward the end of 2014 Sandoval was told that the museum’s very small budget had been cut by 50 percent, and he told them “then I’m not going to do the show.” He thought, “Here we go again.”

Sandoval said, “When we came home [Vietnam Veterans] were not recognized or honored. No one talked to us.” The budget cut made Sandoval remember how Vietnam veterans were never honored like soldiers from other wars were.

Thinking that the exhibit as over before it even launched, Sandoval went to the museum and started to take down the exhibit—until someone walked in and told him that the budget had been approved. With the budget approved, Sandoval started working non-stop on the exhibit. He made a sound montage that played throughout the museum. The montage included sounds and songs of the war and found pictures of all the Ventura men who had died in the war, and made a wall to remember them.

Sandoval was the brain behind many of the exhibits and created all the multimedia elements that were heard and seen throughout the exhibit. Sandoval put countless hours into research and into filming veterans telling their stories—a project Sandoval later made into a documentary. For those who missed the exhibit, Sandoval hopes to get a permeant place in nearby Oxnard, California, to put these items on display to educate all people about the Vietnam War and war in general.

 

 

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Lynnette Satterfield, Assistant Editor

Lynnette is in her senior year at National University, pursuing her Bachelor of Arts degree in Digital Journalism. She enjoys writing about education,...

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Ventura County Museum helps local Vietnam Veterans heal