The Official Voice of Vietnam Veterans of America, Inc. ®
An organization chartered by the U.S. Congress
October/November 2004
FEATURE
 
 

VVA Chapter 142 & The New Michigan Vietnam Veterans Museum
 

BY JIM BELSHAW

Wouldn't it look nice if a veterans' museum sat in this place?
Clifford Trudeau
Chapter 142, Monroe County, Mich.

What began as a passing question five years ago between two Vietnam veterans came to fruition in August with the formal dedication of the Monroe County Vietnam Veterans Museum, only the fifth museum in the nation dedicated solely to the Vietnam War.

The collaborative effort between VVA Chapter 142 and the Monroe County Board of Commissioners had its beginning when two chapter membersone of whom was a County Commissionerone day discussed how the chapter might educate the public about the Vietnam War.

Chapter 142 Public Affairs Chair Glenn Podhola said the chapter had been an active participant in the planning for the museum from the moment of its conception. The chapter has dedicated itself to collecting materials for the museum and intends to make it an educational venue for local schools and a recreational destination reaching well beyond the borders of the county.

Chapter members have donated memorabilia collected during their tours of duty in Vietnam. Podhola said that before the idea was discussed, the chapter already had in place a mechanism that eased the way to its participation. 

"We already had a long-range planning team for Heck Park," he said. "One day one of the chapter members mentioned to the County Commissioner that it would be great to have a Vietnam War museum. The Commissioner took it to heart, discussed the idea with other Commissioners, and eventually the Commissioners appropriated the money for a combination museum and pavilion."

Getting on board with the Commission and Chapter 142 were dozens of local groups, businesses, and individuals. The county allocated $160,000 and construction began in 2003. The building has windows on two sides that hold exhibits from the war. Newspaper articles from 1964-71 tell of the deaths of Monroe County men in Vietnam.

Although the museum falls under the direction of the county museum director, chapter  members work there as volunteers.

With the idea of formalizing its support and extending it even further, Chapter 142 formed a Museum Committee that evolved into the Vietnam Veterans Museum Historical Society.

"The historical society helps operate the museum and is open to the public to join. We're hoping it will aid in fund-raising," Podhola said.

Podhola also said that a few voices raised objections to the museum in the planning stages, but the opposition was "overwhelmed by the community reception and other County Commissioners.

"Monroe County has always been a strong supporter of veterans," he said. "Our county has always had a higher number of men who volunteered to go into the service than did surrounding counties and in some instances other states. And even though we're considered to be a small chapter by VVA standards, we've always been active. We've been blessed with good people who have served as officers in the chapter, and we have so much community support here."

   

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