War Comes Home

By Jennifer Moulaison

The struggles of war throughout history have been told from just about every angle and perspective.

Arguably the most compelling perspective is that of the soldiers’ and their families. The San Joaquin County Historical Museum in Micke Grove Regional Park is hosting a rare and unique exhibit, “War Comes Home,” exploring the joys and hardships of soldiers and their families spanning conflicts from the Civil War through modern times.

Featuring thirteen panels of historic letters, and contemporary letters and emails, the exhibit focuses primarily on the experiences of veterans and families during their transition from deployment back to their hometowns. Every major conflict is represented and explores emotions of grief, joy, doubt, and love. These panels are from the collection of the Center for American War Letters but the Museum will also be supplementing the exhibit with letters from its own collection from the Civil War through the Vietnam conflict.

A majority of these communications were written to Arthur Marquardt at the Lodi News Sentinel for his column, “Over the Morning Coffee.” In addition to Marquardt’s letter archive, the Museum’s exhibit also features letters from Corporal Clarence Tappan, who served the U.S. Army in France and Germany during World War I. Tappan’s communications offer chilling perspective on his experiences. One quote from his letters reads, “Perhaps I do not think of wounds or of seeing a soldier lying where he was struck dead as much as you would. I have seen hundreds of them.” 

Taking in the exhibit, viewers will find letters are coordinated and divided into sections according to the theme of their content. Examples of the sections are: The War Experience: Perception vs. Reality; Far From Home: Wartime Separations; and Enduring Loss: The Costs of War.

Though the age of letters is apparent as conflicts move from hand-written letters to electronic communications, the sentiments and struggles in each letter remain consistent and relatable for soldiers serving throughout America’s history.

These rare communications are particularly relevant to the Central Valley community as San Joaquin County has had veterans from each conflict and has played important stateside roles with the airfield, port, and supply depots.

The San Joaquin County Historical Museum is proud to offer this unique experience to its patrons through their close partnership with the non-profit organization—Exhibit Envoy—who worked with the California State Library and California Humanities in order to make this graphic and in-depth experience told from the soldier’s perspective possible. “War Comes Home” will be on display September 9-November 5.

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