Open Doors: Vietnam POWs Fifty Years of Freedom Exhibit

| March 7, 2023 | 0 Comments

The Coronado Historical Association (CHA) will honor the 50th anniversary of the return of the Vietnam POWs with a new exhibit, Open Doors: Vietnam POWs Fifty Years of Freedom, which takes a close look at thirty former Vietnam POWs from all branches of the military. Produced by photographer Jamie Howren and author Taylor Baldwin Kiland, this exhibit, sponsored by CACI International Inc (NYSE: CACI), captures the subjects’ personalities with photographic portraits and interviews that add verbal color, context, and quotes. 

Open Doors is a tribute to Vietnam prisoners of war and their individual determination in seeking personal and professional happiness upon their release in 1973. In 2006, Open Doors was acquired by CACI, a leading provider of expertise and technology to U.S. government enterprise and mission customers, based in Reston, Virginia. CACI displayed Open Doors for more than fifteen years in its corporate headquarters until it donated the exhibit back to CHA this year–to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the captives’ homecoming. 

Open Doors is a testament to the strength of the human spirit and the power of human will, it is also a celebration of that second chance at freedom. As Commander Paul Galanti, USN (Ret.) and former Vietnam POW said, “There’s no such thing as a bad day when you have a doorknob on the inside of the door,” referencing the door in his cell during his time in captivity.

Created twenty years ago on the thirtieth anniversary of the men’s return, this photographic portrait exhibition gives insight into their human spirit, the longest-held group of POWs in our nation’s history. As Captain C.E. “Ev” Southwick, USN (Ret.), who was held captive for six years, has said, “People often shake their head and comment to me that they could have never survived what I have. You know what: they’re wrong. The human spirit has amazing fortitude and faced with such a challenge, can muster incredible strength. Common men have proven this time and time again.”

Jamie Howren and Taylor Kiland spent eighteen months traveling across the nation to interview and photograph the Vietnam War POWs featured in the exhibit in their homes and offices. Kiland and Howren both share the conviction that this group of men has stories to tell and lessons to teach about inner will, the strength of the human spirit, and how ordinary people can endure extraordinary circumstances. The original exhibit debuted at CHA in 2002 and then traveled the nation, making appearances in more than fifteen venues. It was even displayed on the USS Boxer. 

CACI is the presenting sponsor of the exhibition. Discover Coronado has provided a lead sponsorship gift to support Open Doors. The exhibition will open to the public on Friday, March 3, 2023, at the Coronado Historical Association and remain open and free to the public until National POW/MIA Day on September 15, 2023.

Drawing by Captain John Michael McGrath, USN (Ret.), former POW and artist, of his door to his cell during captivity.

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