Library display to mark Vietnam Veterans Day
Clarence Larson American Legion Post 23 Commander John Gustafson has been busy lately with a very important mission: honoring those who served in an almost-forgotten, unpopular war.
Gustafson has set up an educational display at Rugby’s Heart of America Library to tell the story of the men and women who served in the Vietnam War era in time for National Vietnam Veterans Day, March 29.
The display located downstairs from the main library will be open to the public March 23 through March 31.
“I’ve got some flyers that I will post to announce it,” Gustafson said as he assembled stands to display more than 20 posters that depict everything from the experiences of prisoners of war to the work done by medical personnel in combat zones.
“Hopefully, the coronavirus is not going to cause a closure,” Gustafson said. “That’s an unforeseen thing we can’t do anything about. So, we’ll just have to deal with that if it comes.”
Gustafson explained the history behind National Vietnam Veterans’ Day.
“A number of years back, the United States realized there wasn’t enough recognition for those folks who served our country during the Vietnam War era,” he said.
“So, they came up with the Vietnam War Commemoration Commission,” Gustafson added. “It started in 2015. In 2025, the commission will be finished with their work. The whole idea was to recognize those who served.”
Gustafson pointed to a poster displaying lapel pins and certificates for service in the war.
“We have these lapel pins that are a part of the program,” Gustafson said. On Veterans Day and Memorial Day, anyone who served in that timeframe, we’ll be happy to give out lapel pins to commemorate their service.”
Gustafson said the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recognizes Vietnam-era service as taking place between from Nov. 1, 1955 and May 15, 1975.
“That’s regardless of the location where they served,” Gustafson said of the Vietnam-era veterans being honored. “It doesn’t matter.”
“Also, we have a certificate of honor program which is designed for surviving spouses of those who served in that timeframe,” Gustafson indicated.
Pointing out other lapel pins displayed on a poster, Gustafson said, “These are for the POWs and MIAs who are unaccounted for. This one is also for former, living POWs. So, we have four different pins to honor those individuals.”
“And, of course, the lapel pin is for the active-duty member, man or woman, who served during those timeframes,” Gustafson added. “These are the objectives of the commemoration commission: we honor the people by the pins; we highlight the different services through these posters here.”
As he walked toward boards displayed on four tables in the meeting room downstairs in the library, Gustafson said, “These posters will help. This will help them focus on the fact this was a time in our history they need to recognize. I don’t get involved in politics, whether or not this was right or wrong. This is about the men and women who were there and some of them paid the ultimate price. There were over 58,000 service men and women who gave their lives directly related to this conflict. So, I’ve got a little bit of everything here.”
“It’s been glossed over throughout history a little bit,” Gustafson said of the Vietnam War.
“It’s my goal to get out in the public and get this as much exposure as we can on behalf of the Legion,” he added.
Gustafson said he has enlisted the help of Bailey Nelson of I Design to create the posters and he hopes to add to his collection until he has about 50 of them.
“Every chance I get until 2025, I’m going to try to display this,” Gustafson said. “It will be displayed at the American Legion. I’ve contacted Rugby High School about possibly putting this out in the commons area for a couple of days. I talked to Mr. Gullickson at Ely Elementary about doing something similar.”
“My goal eventually is to do more on-the-road things to visit other high schools or other venues for educational purposes for those who weren’t even born when this conflict was going on,” Gustafson added.
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