A great salute to the military

Published 10:23 pm Friday, September 2, 2016

The Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts will launch its new season with a month-long salute to the military in September, and the offerings include some opportunities that can be found nowhere else in Hampton Roads.

Starting this Thursday, the center will host an exhibition of combat art from Vietnam. The Vietnam Combat Artists Program was started in 1966, when the U.S. Army chief of military history asked Marian McNaughton, who was the curator at the time for the Army Art Collection, to put together a plan for artists in the U.S. military to share their impressions of the war.

Nine combat teams of military artists, chosen during an application period, were then sent to Vietnam to record those impressions. They were in-country for 60 days and then in Hawaii for an additional 75 days to complete their work.


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The results were emotionally wrenching, and the collection is now housed at the U.S. Army Center of Military History in Washington, D.C. In 2010 and 2011, more than 300 works from the Army art program were part of an exhibition at the National Constitution Center in Philadephia. It was one of the first times the collection had been put on display en masse.

Suffolk’s upcoming exhibition will be a great opportunity to see the artwork up close and personal. The show will continue through the end of the month, but if you go on Thursday, you’ll get a chance to hear the U.S. Army TRADOC band and, in a wonderful catch for the Suffolk Center, meet and hear from Porter Halyburton, who befriended the late U.S. Air Force Col. Fred V. Cherry, a Suffolk man who spent seven years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

Cherry, who was black, and Halyburton, a white man from North Carolina, had been put in the same cell together in hopes that racial tensions would break them. But they became fast friends, and their story is told in the book “Two Souls Indivisible.”

Halyburton will sign copies of the book, and visitors will be able to see memorabilia from Cherry’s life, including plaques and awards. The event is set to start at 5:30 p.m.

On Sept. 15, retired U.S. Navy Adm. William E. Gortney will speak at 7 p.m. During his 39-year career, Gortney commanded at every level in the Navy and was recognized with multiple awards.

On Sept. 22 at 7 p.m., “Thao’s Library” will be the featured film. The movie was inspired by the story of a young Vietnamese survivor of the war. It will be followed by a question-and-answer session with the film’s director of photography, Stephen Katz, a photographer for the Virginian-Pilot.

A family-friendly movie will also join in the celebration of military heroes. “Big Hero 6” will play at the center at 2 p.m. Sept. 10.

All the events are free, and they are not to be missed. The folks on Finney Avenue have chosen a terrific way to launch the 10th-anniversary celebration of the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts.