The Vietnam War was the longest in United States history, but perhaps the most misunderstood. A safe haven for fellow vets and an educational experience for visitors can be found right in downtown Elmira. In this edition of Explore New York, Gabrielle Mediak takes us half a century back in time to the Vietnam Veterans of America Museum.
ELMIRA, N.Y. -- What was once an old bar in downtown Elmira has now been transformed into a piece of history. It may not look like much from the outside, but when you step through its doors you're taken back in time. The Vietnam Veterans of America Museum was opened in 2009 by Chapter 803.
“We have a little bit of everything," said assistant director Bruce Newkirk.
The museum is filled with equipment, uniforms and historic artifacts from all over the world.
"We have memorabilia that the guys have brought home. We have widows coming in with their husband’s flight suits,” said Newkirk. “This place has so many memories that can never be replaced.”
All helping to reach the museum's goal.
"To remind people of Vietnam War because very little is taught about it,” said Newkirk. “People don't realize what went on."
And to eliminate the stigma behind it.
"What the guys went through. How the people treated us,” said Newkirk. “It's a war we fought because the politicians wanted us to fight it."
The museum is run by fellow vets who have experienced it all. Each day they spread that knowledge to groups of all ages. Helping old generations remember and teaching new ones.
"We bring kids down and we've had quite a few home study groups,” said Newkirk. “We are open to anybody."
But beyond the tours and artifacts, they offer help to those who need it.
"We get a lot of guys coming in, and we sit around for hours talking. It's a safe haven," he said.
And that help is offered to anyone. No matter their age or where they've served.
"Our motto is, 'Never again will one group of veterans abandon another,’" he said.
The Vietnam Veterans of America Museum is open seven days a week and free to the public.