In February 2019, 52 Northeast Wisconsin veterans participated in Return to Nam, a first-of-its-kind Old Glory Honor Flight.
Old Glory Honor Flight is a nonprofit organization that provides WWII, Korean War and Vietnam War veterans with air transportation to Washington, D.C. so they may visit memorials built in their honor. These trips typically occur in one day, but the Return to Nam flight brought veterans back to Vietnam for a two-week tour.
Longtime Old Glory Honor Flight volunteer Jenny Vanden Heuvel offered to document the participating veterans’ stories so they could learn more about each other prior to the trip.
“As the project evolved, we realized it was really a way to start a conversation between them to open up about their experiences and start down a path of healing,” she says.
With the help of more than 40 creative partners, the Return to Nam documentary project grew to include a 400-page hardcover book, feature-length film, a radio segment with the Library of Congress and formal archiving with The History Museum at the Castle.
This October, an exhibit will commemorate the trip and resulting creative works, which were 100-percent volunteer led. The exhibit runs October 5-26 at The Draw in Appleton, with an opening reception on Saturday, October 5 from 1-4 p.m.
The exhibit provides visitors a glimpse into the veterans’ Return to Nam journey, showcasing photography from the trip, book excerpts and metal printing plates used on press in the book’s production. Artwork by veterans will also be displayed including a poem by Glen Zimmerman and watercolor paintings by Elton Scheunemann.
“Whether you have a direct connection to someone who has served our country, are a veteran yourself, or are simply looking to discover a unique creative outlet, this will be a meaningful display on many levels,” Vanden Heuvel says.
Several showings of the Return to Nam feature-length film will occur throughout the month. Admission to the gallery is free. Both the Return to Nam book and movie will be available for cash purchase during gallery hours. All proceeds will benefit Old Glory Honor Flight, a registered 501(c)3 charitable organization.
“We hope that this project will offer education, healing, and will serve as a medium to thank all Vietnam veterans with the respect they deserved 50-plus years ago,” Vanden Huevel says.
For gallery hours and movie showtimes, visit oldgloryhonorflight.org.