Vietnam Graffiti Exhibit Offers Honest Depiction of Wartime Introspection

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AUGUSTA, Maine. (WABI) What goes through the mind of a soldier before battle?

A new exhibit at the University of Maine at Augusta gives us a glimpse into what some Vietnam veterans were thinking during their voyage to war.

"The canvases that you see here were discovered by Art Beltrone in 1997," said Melissa Willette, Communications Director for the Maine Bureau of Veterans' Services.

Beltrone, a military artifact historian, along with the production designer for the WWII film The Thin Red Line, found what they described as a 'giant time capsule' when researching architectural details for movie sets.

"There are about 300 canvases that he has in his possession and what you see here are mostly from those aboard the ship that had ties to the state of Maine," said Willette.

The Vietnam Graffiti Project features a berthing unit from the U.S.N.S. General Nelson M. Walker troopship, which carried up to 5,000 troops at a time to Vietnam- some of whom were Maine natives.

"On Thursday, August 17th, as part of the state of Maine's Honoring a Veteran program, the Bureau of Veterans' Services is hosting here at UMA a welcome home ceremony for Vietnam veterans."

Located in Jewett Hall on the UMaine campus in Augusta, the exhibit also features items found aboard as well as thought-provoking notes and cartoons, some tragic, others hilarious- but all an honest depiction of war-time introspection.

"You have some love notes to females back home. You get a real-time perspective of their feelings, their fears."

The exhibit is open to the public for the rest of this week from 9-5.

This candid portrait of musings strips away political correctness and the years of reflection that often gets associated with looking back on history to represent what was on soldiers' minds just before landing on the shores of Vietnam.

"The state of Maine has a very long tradition of military service and I think you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn't have some sort of connection to the military. So I would encourage every Mainer that can and has the time to come visit the project."