The Vietnam effect
It's called "The Vietnam War: A Conflict in Time" for a good reason.
The large room at the Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum filled up with visitors, many of them veterans of the Vietnam War, there for a more clear understanding of why the Vietnam War happened and its profound effect on the men and women who served in it and survived.
On the walls and in display cases lining the walls, photographs of men in combat and rare documents relating to the Vietnam War invite closer inspection of the exhibit, which continues through Sept. 28 at the museum, 432 W. Walnut St., Allentown.
The exhibit features artifacts from local Vietnam War veterans displayed in a way that curators hope will help viewers understand the origin of the war and the resistance to the war which came to dominate the American discourse in the late 1960's and early 1970's. It is a discourse that continues to shape foreign policy to this day.
On March 22, opening day of the exhibit, with an estimated 200 in attendance, a video tour of Lehigh Valley military memorials was projected on a screen. The video was produced by LVHM Curator Jill Youngken.
Marine Don Margraf of Macungie attended with his daughter Dorothy Fleming.
"It was very well done," Margraf of the exhibit. "I'm sure it brought back vivid, proud and sad moments for many of the veterans who attended."
Margraf, youngest of four brothers, three of whom were Marines, served from August 1953 - September 1955.
Easton film-maker Lou Reda introduced "Brothers In War," his new documentary about the Vietnam War. "We were young. We died. Remember us," it stated on the screen.
The film, which premiered at LVHM prior to its television debut on the National Geographic Channel, recounts many of the war's grim statistics: 2.5 million men and women deployed; 58,220 dead; 363,644 wounded; 1,643 still missing in action as of October 2013; 61 percent who served were 21 or younger; 11,000 women served, eight of whom were killed; 245 Medals of Honor awarded.
Lehigh County Historical Society President Sonya Siegfried shared an emotional moment. The mannequin in the Marine uniform in front of the flags is adorned with the uniform of her brother, John E. Roberts, who died in the Vietnam War. The uniform is among her brother's personal effects that the family received.
"No one can die in vain in the service of their country," said LVHM Executive Director Joe Garrera, himself an Army veteran. "If you do, the American people will remember you for all time."