Honoring the fallen; 'Echoes from the Battlefield' exhibit speaks volumes
By TERRY DATE | The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass. | Published: June 15, 2017
HAVERHILL, Mass. (Tribune News Service) — Uniforms, helmets, and combat gear from the wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan will join hundreds of military artifacts in "Echoes from the Battlefield," a new exhibit opening this Friday at Haverhill's Buttonwoods Museum.
The exhibit — timed to coincide with "The Wall That Heals," a 250-foot mobile replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., now on display at Haverhill High School — spotlights the collection of U.S. Army veteran Richard Barbato.
It features not just American service members' uniforms, but those worn by their enemies in Vietnam and the Middle East.
Barbato, a paratrooper in the invasion of Iraq in 2003, hopes his collection deepens people's understanding of the Vietnam War and War on Terror and helps connect the public and military personnel.
"We have become so separate and isolated that we have lost connection with each other," Barbato said.
He was reflecting on the differences between how the public and military interacted and shared war-time burdens and experiences during World War II and in later wars.
Artifacts have the power to elicit responses and connect people to events, he said.
Barbato, 39, attended Valley Forge Military Academy in Pennsylvania and was one of the last graduates from Bradford College before it closed.
His exhibit was selected as one of two winners among six entries for this year’s Curate Your Own Exhibit contest, said Buttonwoods Museum Director and curator Janice Williams. The other exhibit, yet to be announced, will be shown later in the summer.
Williams said Barbato's exhibit offers much to see and question and learn.
Buttonwoods Museum trustee Linda Greenstein added it's critical to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice, on behalf of their families.
Keith Gopsill, 44, of Haverhill, a U.S. Navy veteran on the Haverhill Veterans Council, was trying to bring Vietnam War-era military Jeeps to the grounds at Buttonwoods to complement the military exhibit.
Friday night's opening reception at Buttonwoods will include color guard ceremonies by Boy Scout Troop 24 Bradford, Sacred Hearts Parish. About a dozen Boy Scouts will carry flags, including those representing all branches of military service. Eighth-grader Zachary Seymour will play taps.
Zachary's father, JayR Seymour, 46, of Bradford, the Troop 24 committee chairman, said he has grown more enthusiastic about the exhibit after learning about its extensive contents and meaning.
Rev. Donna Spencer Collins of Phoenix Rising Church in Haverhill will read roll call. Battle Grounds Coffee Co. of Haverhill will provide refreshments.
Salvatore DeFranco of Battle Grounds, a former U.S. Navy Seal, said the exhibit is important to him and his wife, Dana Perry. Her father served in Vietnam, as did her two uncles. Her grandfather was highly decorated in World War II.
"Echoes from the Battlefield" remains on display at Buttonwoods through July 8.
"The Wall That Heals," brought to Haverhill through the efforts of the Haverhill Veterans Association and Haverhill’s Disabled American Veterans, is assembled at Haverhill High, 137 Monument St., through Sunday, June 18, at 3 p.m.
More information: buttonwoods.org, 978-374-4626
Leon K. Pike, a U.S. Air Force veteran from the Vietnam era displays his Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineer patches, uniform and hat during a 97th Civil Engineer Squadron heritage brief at the Freedom Community Center, Oct. 1, 2014.
FRANKLIN R. RAMOS/ U.S. AIR FORCE