Vietnam museum to go on display


Later this month, Vietnam veteran Chuck Van Voorhis will bring an immersive Vietnam War experience to Marion that he hopes will continue to bring awareness to the period.

Beginning on April 24, the “Vietnam War Experience” traveling museum will be set up inside American Legion Post 584 in Marion and feature authentic artifacts, gripping displays, and first-hand accounts that capture the essence of what Van Voorhis, his fellow soldiers, and the Vietnamese faced during the war.

The museum, which is free and open to the public, will be on display from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. through April 27.

Van Voorhis, who was born and raised in Bellefontaine, Ohio, served in the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines regiment in the An Hòa Valley in 1968-69.

“It was a lot of death and destruction, but it was also a lot of things I’d generally never seen before,” he said of his time there. “I’d never been out of Ohio until I went to Vietnam. Before going over there, I’d never seen big mountains, never seen rice patties, or even just people living that poorly.”

Having been collecting items for 35 years, perhaps even longer, Van Voorhis said he has “everything” in his collection. Included are 21 full-size mannequins dressed in American military gear from all five branches of the period and even in the Vietcong and North Vietnamese Army uniforms. The museum also shows typical clothing of the locals and more.

The methods he’s used to build the collection are numerous, including military shows, flea markets, donations, and even picking up items when he returned to Vietnam in 2014.

“I could talk all day on what I have; it’s huge … I’ve got a 14-foot box truck full of stuff, a 14-foot trailer full, and my barn is full,” he added of his collection. “And it’s accurate. I even have a hippie, which was big back then. I try to cover every aspect. I even have a Vietnamese culture display with items from Vietnam.”

Originally, Van Voorhis, a 2015 inductee of the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame, would take the collection to schools to show students and share his stories. Eventually, as the collection grew and word spread, schools began coming to him instead.

“We realized early on that the kids paid more attention to you if you had props and things they could look at or touch. And it’s just grown from there,” he said.

The museum is more than just a display of artifacts, however. Van Voorhis walks around the museum with a microphone and gives tours to provide context to what visitors are seeing, which encourages dialogue and, ultimately, creates a more immersive experience.

“I get pleasure out of telling people what it was like and things I saw when I was just a kid,” he said. “I turned 21 years old in Vietnam. I enjoy explaining things to people and telling them exactly what they’re looking at. If you just let somebody walk through the museum and don’t talk to them, you just let them come in and walk through, a lot of times what they do is they just kind of look almost like they’re at a flea market.

“And my stuff is laid out excellently, and when I walk up and introduce myself and ask to take them on a tour and start talking about the stuff, the people stick right with me. There might be something they’re interested in, but if you’re not there to explain it a little bit, they’ll just keep walking.”

While the museum is meant to educate people about the Vietnam War, it is also self-serving and cathartic for Van Voorhis.

“For me, it’s therapy,” he said. “I see these different weapons and things I saw in Vietnam, and it refreshes my memory. Some guys that got PTSD really bad, they might get a little spooked when they see some of things like a hand grenade. For me, I treat it as a therapy.”

For more information on the museum, visit

Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.

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