To start off The Truth of War project we began watching Ken Burns Documentaries, to get background information about the Vietnam War. I learned so much through this research period, but what I thought was really interesting to learn about was the Domino Effect. This Domino Effect is what got America so wrapped up in wanting to be apart of this war. For those of you who don’t know what the Domino Effect is I will explain it to you. The main fight of the Vietnam War was over communism. Communism is where everything is owned publicly, and the work that is done is paid according to your capabilities. It was thought by USSR and North Vietnam that Communism created peace because everyone became equal. America knew better. They knew that Communism would result poorly and that was not the way to find peace. America was worried that other countries would start following Communism, which would then knock out all Capitalists. This was called the Domino Effect. Since freedom was fought for so long in America they wanted to keep it that way and began intervening and working with the French to make sure Communism didn’t spread. This was so interesting to learn about and helped me better understand the reasoning behind why we got involved in the Vietnam War.
After collecting research and understanding of the Vietnam War, our class began constructing our exhibition. The class of 2020 has been known to create extravagant exhibitions that are interactive for community members and students. When starting our design thinking process for designing our exhibition. We all knew right away we wanted to create an interactive experience. We were basing this idea off of a previous exhibition we had done the year prior that was a big success. The set up for the exhibition was meant to feel like a journey, a journey through the hardships, success, challenges of this time in the Vietnam War. When starting our design thinking process we separated our exhibition into six different rooms: The American Homefront, Soldiers on the Battlefield, Soldiers’ Emotions, Vietnamese Perspectives, America Divided, and Retrospectives. From there we divided into different groups, these groups would represent and construct an appropriate demonstration of the theme. The room I worked in was called the Retrospective Room. This room demonstrated the hardships and experiences these soldiers had when they returned home from the Vietnam War. We had several components to our room which was determined through our design thinking process. We first had to plan and draw out our ideas on what our room should look like. During this stage, my group determined we would like to have a mural showcasing the return of our soldiers, the Ken Burns Documentary, interviews from Veterans, as well as a reaction board that would showcase our community members thoughts on The Truth of War. Once our ideas were on paper we began constructing interview questions, selecting which part of the Ken Burns Documentary, painting of the mural, and determining what will be presented on our timeline. The exhibition was a great success. You began walking through The American Homefront. In this room you see a father speaking to his daughter over the dinner table about his son who is in the Vietnam War. You continue forward to a living room where a mother is crying about the possibility of losing her husband since her son already is in the war. The objective of this room is to show you what it was like in an American household when your son or father has gone off to war, and how hard it is on not only the soldiers but also the family. As you continue through the exhibition you enter Soldiers on the Battlefield. A general instructs you to put on a dog tag, then tells you to be careful because of traps that may come your way. There is even a scene of someone injured and having to be assisted by a nurse. This room was to help you understand what it was like going through the jungle as a soldier. In the third room, you enter it was called the Soldiers’ Emotions, in this room, you had a scene of soldiers playing cards and keep cover, as well as articles and posters conveying true stories. In the Vietnamese Perspectives room, you are informed about what it was like living in Vietnam as well as what the Vietnamese uniforms looked like. The America Divided room shows the signs, images, and even a band playing to help you understand the petitions against the Vietnam War. Lastly, you walk down the hallway reading the timeline of the Vietnam War, which leads you into the Retrospective room. In this room you hand off your dog tag to commemorate the ones we lost in the war, you then can watch the last episode of the Ken Burns Documentary, listen to an interview, look at a mural, write your response to what you believe The Truth of War is, or donate money to which room was your favorite. The Exhibition was a great success and from what I have heard outside of school, everyone who came enjoyed it and learned lots.
In this project, I strengthened my multitasking skills, as well as grew in my understanding of teamwork. When my group came together to draw out what our room would incorporate, I signed myself up to complete a big task: a mural. In a previous exhibition, I had done a mural on a wall but had six different people helping me complete it. I figured it wouldn’t take me to long. I had a plan, and I thought I would only bring in basic concepts for this mural. As the exhibition drew near, I realized the little time I had after school with community activities to complete this mural. Now, not only did I sign myself up for a mural, but I was creating art for the cover of our exhibition flyer and the back of our flyer, as well as helping my group complete other tasks for our room. It was challenging to multitask at first. I wanted to make sure the group was on task and completing things to perfection, I was focusing mainly on drawing a typewriter font for the flyer which took up way to much time, as well as I was starting details on my mural before getting the general shapes down. With the feeling of handling too much at once, I reached out to Ally Johnson for some guidance on how I can help my group without doing work for them, as well as keeping myself under control in this stressful situation. Ally Johnson helped me realize that not everything can be perfect, and focusing on my best work is what will bring me to success. I can help my peers, but I also have to realize we all need to put forth our effort into this overall project, and not bring it upon one person. I also spoke with my Dad about some ways that my mural could be completed in a more timely manner. He suggested that I start working on the overall shapes and components of my mural, instead of getting caught up in detail. I now felt myself getting all this work under control. There was still a lot on my plate, and I was still a bit unsettled, but I felt myself having a calmer sense. I felt like I was believing in myself to be able to complete these tasks. Though at first working with my group was a bit rocky, as the exhibition came right around the corner, we all started working as a team. I suggested different tasks for the peers that had finished prior work, and our room started coming together. The day of the exhibition, while setting up, we all supported one another, whether it was hanging up curtains, downloading interviews or documentaries, placing the timeline on the wall, or hanging artwork. I realized through this process that relaxing and realizing that I am in control of myself and that not everything will be perfect, results in great teamwork. I also learned that when working on a big canvas (or piece of plywood), first focusing on getting general shapes down will help painting move a lot faster. After focusing on general shapes and colors, you can then go back in and focus on the details and cleaning up the artwork. I now know for next time when working on a mural how to manage my time and not have to stay up way too late. This project was a great learning experience for me, and now in the future, I know how to better manage group work, as well as how to create a mural in a given amount of time.
The goal of this project was to present and find personally what we believe The Truth of War is. To me I found that The Truth of War is the Emotions of loss, gain, and challenges. When Ally Johnson first presented our topic question to the class, I had a hard time understanding. I have studied the Revolutionary War and the Civil War and believed that war started and ended while losing loved ones on the way. This is a true fact in every war, but I never truly grasped the emotion, politics, and the things that each soldier carried on their backs, whether it was metaphorically or physically. In this project we read a book called, The Things They Carried. In this book, the author, Tim O’Brien, writes different stories representing the hardship of being at Vietnam, as well as coming home from Vietnam. One of the first stories talks about what each soldier carried. You had soldiers that carried cigarettes, drugs, images, memories of loved ones, guns, radios, raincoats, Bibles, etc. There was one specific man though that carried a rock in his mouth. This rock belonged to a girl he had a crush on who was back at home. He used this rock to help him feel like he was at home with her. These stories really started letting me see that war isn’t easy. War can take you away from your loved ones and you might never see them again. I also learned that these soldiers that fought to keep communism away from other countries were not treated with respect when they came home. When I fully understood The Truth of War was after interviewing veterans. I was very grateful to have been able to meet with Tom Sanford and got to hear from George Usiniwitz. It was so interesting to hear the different points of views. Tom Sanford informed my interview group about memory loss as well as what it was like to have PTSD. He also seemed more at peace with how the war affected him and others than how George Usiniwitz felt. Both were affected by this war in different ways, but the way they handled these losses when they came home varied. To me The Truth of War is emotion. The emotion of being in battle, the emotion of losing loved ones, the emotion of the return. War is never easy, but emotion is what drives each individual into their own paths.
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