Teens and Staff Collaborate to Tell Veterans' Stories

19, April 2013
 
Teens Make History ExhibitorsThe Teens Make History Exhibitors pose during the opening night of the Between Two Worlds exhibit at the Museum. Left to right: Tyshaun Randolph, Rachele Banks, Jacob Laseter, Vaughn Davis, and Devi Acharya.

This week, a year’s worth of work by five teenagers, members of the Museum’s Teens Make History program, concluded with the opening of the exhibition Between Two Worlds: Veterans Journey Home. These young people, in partnership with Museum staff, have taken the exhibit from proposal to installation. Between Two Worlds examines the experience of veterans, from WWI to the current conflict in Afghanistan, as they deal with separation from home, struggle to maintain communication with loved ones, and ultimately transition back into civilian life. Through objects, photos, and the personal stories of individual veterans, this exhibit shows that core aspects of coming home from war never change, yet each veteran’s experience is fundamentally personal and each era of veterans faced unique challenges. Read below to hear about some of our teen curators’ favorite objects from the exhibit.

Two Walk the Golden Road bookBook co-written by Wilson (Woody) Powell and Zhou Ming-Fu about their experiences on opposite sides of the Korean War.

Devi Acharya, Junior, Crossroad College Prep High School: Two Walk the Golden Road, by Wilson Powell and Zhou Ming-Fu

Wilson (Woody) Powell left for Korea in 1950. When he returned home, he was not the same man. He describes his struggle to reintegrate back into American life while dealing with everything from anger issues to difficult family relations. Despite the fact that the war was over, Powell still carried much of the emotional baggage that he had taken home from the front lines. Decades later while traveling in Chengdu, China, Powell was approached by Chinese citizen Zhou Ming-Fu. These two men did not know each other, but after talking for a bit realized they had served very near each other in Korea—fighting against one another all those years ago. When Zhou Ming-Fu said that he was writing a book about his own experiences in Korea, Powell realized that he had a story of his own to share. Together these two men collaborated on this book, Two Walk the Golden Road, to tell the story of the Korean War from both sides of the battlefield. This book really serves to represent not only the stories of war that one experiences, but also the stories that come after the war is over. For Powell, it represents a retrospective look at his service in Korea, as well as a release from some of those old memories.

Veteran Sam Edelmann's journalJournal of WWI veteran Samuel Edelmann.

Rachele Banks, Junior, Soldan International Studies High School: Samuel Edelmann’s Journal

Ruth Ponciroli spent much time looking at correspondence from her father, World War I veteran Samuel Edelmann. She has collected and compiled letters, photos, and other objects he sent or brought home after the war. She put all of these special items into a scrapbook that she still has today. One particularly precious item was Samuel Edelmann’s  journal, a small book in which he kept accounts of what was happening at the front lines and his activities in service. In the journal, he describes everything from trivial details like “Pay Day” to more serious events such as a powerful morning sermon or an attack. Journaling was obviously a very important aspect in Edelmann’s life while away from home, because he wrote in it quite frequently. Seeing a veteran’s thoughts written down during war is intriguing to me because I couldn’t possibly fathom the thoughts going through his head. So seeing this journal made it more evident to me what Samuel Edelmann was going through, thinking about, or doing at the time.

Necklace of Larry HelmsLarry Helms's necklace that he wore in Vietnam.

Jacob Laseter, Junior, Brentwood High School: Larry Helm’s Necklace

This simple necklace belongs to Vietnam War veteran Larry Helm. Helm grew ill while serving overseas and had to be Medevac’d out of the country. He left everything behind except what he was wearing. One of the items he had on him was this necklace. Helm wears this necklace even today. It is very important to him, as it embodies the core ideas of this exhibit. He had it in Vietnam to remind him of his family and brought it home with him after the war. He had this necklace in both worlds: the world of war and the world of peace.

dress navy uniform with medalsJim Lohmann's navy dress uniform jacket featuring seven medals, including the Distinguished Flying Cross medal.

Tyshaun Randolph, Senior, East St. Louis Senior High School: Jim Lohmann’s Distinguished Flying Cross Medal

Jim Lohmann served as a navy pilot on board an aircraft carrier during the Gulf War. He earned this medal while flying a mission over Iraq in the Gulf War. During the mission he made the heroic decision to fly into the line of fire coming from Iraqi anti-aircraft artillery. This decision allowed his team to complete their mission and earned him the Distinguished Flying Cross. This medal stands for the valor and bravery of the soldier who obtained it.

 

 

 

 

blue burqaBlue burqa that veteran Shawn Tamborski brought back from Afghanistan.

Vaughn Davis, Senior, Eureka High School: Burqa Brought Back from Afghanistan by Shawn Tamborski

Shawn Tamborski served as a paralegal of the 131st Bomb Wing, working in Kabul to assist members of the Afghan National Army in matters of law, from enacting a proper filing system to fighting for the rights and livelihoods of the people of Afghanistan. When she returned home in early 2012 she brought this burqa back with her. It is an example of the forced gender distinctions required under Taliban rule. Tamborski described witnessing firsthand how the past regime’s patriarchy continued to affect Afghan women.

Read more about the exhibit, open through October 20, 2013.