There is definitely a generational shift happening with our treasured military veterans.
As the “Greatest Generation” of World War II veterans continue to pass on, the Korean War and Vietnam War veterans are beginning to reflect upon their tours of duty in new ways as they age.
The 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War has given the USS Silversides Museum an opportunity to begin to reflect on what that war meant to the veterans, their generation and the country in the 1960s.
Return to Vietnam is a special program at the Silversides Museum Tuesday Oct. 27 at 6 p.m. A group of West Michigan Vietnam veterans, including Muskegon native Tom Sibley, will reflect upon their trip back to Vietnam 20 years after the war.
The group will share their experience with the Vietnam people and visits to places where they had served during the war.
They will show a video of their travels 20 years ago and join a panel discussion moderated by James Smither, Grand Valley State University professor of history and director of the GVSU Veterans Historical Project.
MLive engaged the World War II living veterans and their families in 2014 with its Michigan Honors project. Some 7,600 WW II veterans living at the time were entered into an MLive database to honor their service and preserve their memories.
Of the Michigan Honors veterans, some 550 were from the Muskegon area.
“We have given three years of lectures on WW II and now we are thinking about Vietnam,” said Silversides Museum Associate Director Frank Marzcak. “A focus group of museum members and lecture series attendees found interest in Vietnam, the human side of the war.”
Marzcak said that museum officials realize that there are many Vietnam veterans and their families who do not want to explore their war years and may never want such reflection.
But there are others who do. A large number attended a forum on earlier in the month at the museum on Agent Orange with federal Veterans Administration outreach officials, he said.
The Oct. 27 Return to Vietnam program is free to veterans and museum members with general admission for the public $5. The museum is located on the Muskegon Channel at 1346 Bluff.
In November, the USS Silversides Museum will have another World War I lecture series beginning Nov. 4 with Tom Tudor, a former sentinel guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and president of the National Society of the Honor Guard. He will speak on the Arlington Cemetery tomb.
Other WW I lectures will be Nov. 16 and 24 and Dec. 1. They begin at 6 p.m.