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Tribute to Missouri’s Vietnam veterans reaches final resting place

Tom Seematter leaves the original copy of his tribute to the state’s Vietnam veterans while visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. A copy of the artwork will be on display at the Missouri Military Museum at Missouri’s National Guard headquarters.

Tom Seematter leaves the original copy of his tribute to the state’s Vietnam veterans while visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. A copy of the artwork will be on display at the Missouri Military Museum at Missouri’s National Guard headquarters.

After several years of working with museum officials at the Missouri Capitol, Tom Seematter has decided to remove an artistic tribute he created in recognition of the state’s Vietnam veterans and place it at the base of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C.

According to Seematter, 69, a Vietnam veteran from Annapolis, the artwork, which was finished in 1989, is a drawing of the Vietnam War Memorial and represents the “recognition (Vietnam veterans) have fiercely struggled to gain.”

In 1991, a print of the original artwork was placed on display in the Museum of History in the Capitol, where it remained for nearly two decades. However, during a trip to Jefferson City in early 2010, Seematter discovered it had been removed from display and placed in storage.

Since that time, Seematter, with the help of Rep. Paul Fitzwater, R-Potosi, was able to have the artwork returned to display, but has recently discovered that it will not become a permanent fixture in the museum.

“We’ve written the governor, we’ve put the story out there …we’ve done everything we can to bring attention to this tribute to our state’s Vietnam vets,” Fitzwater said.

As Seematter explained, a recent letter received from the museum advised him that the artwork would be removed from display this October, and moved back into storage.

According to a fact sheet on the Smithsonian Institution’s website, museums display only a small percentage of their stock at any given time. In fact, the Smithsonian indicates less than 2 percent of their stock is on display with many collections used for research purposes.

“I wanted it to be removed with a little bit of dignity … not in a somber, quiet way,” Seematter said. This had led to the veteran to make other plans for “fulfilling the artwork’s journey” with the first copy of the original print.

Last month, Seematter made the journey to the Vietnam Wall in Washington, D.C., where he placed the print at the base of the memorial, in a quiet, reflective moment absent any pomp and circumstance.

“I could have easily made copies of this print to sell,” Seematter said, “but I didn’t want to commercialize it.

“This was about fulfilling a journey and leaving behind a gift of honor to those brave veterans who have inspired us,” he said, adding, “Leaving this artwork at the wall as a gift on behalf of the citizens of Missouri has helped me realize it has served it purpose in honoring those who never made it home.”

Seematter has, however, donated a copy of the print to the Missouri Military Museum at the Missouri National Guard Headquarters.

For more information on the Museum of Missouri Military History, please visit www.moguard.com and click on the “Veteran/Retiree” link.

Jeremy P. Amick is the public affairs officer for the Silver Star Families of America.

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