Museum honors Vietnam veterans

Katherine Evans fastens a pin honoring Vietnam veterans to the lapel of her husband Walter’s coat, during a presentation at Museum of the Albemarle, Saturday, Nov. 30.

U.S. Army veteran Walter Evans didn’t get to hold the lapel pin presented to him and other Vietnam veterans by Museum of the Albemarle staff for very long Saturday morning.

That’s because Evans’ wife, Katherine, quickly took hold of the pin and proudly pinned it to the collar of his jacket.

Evans spent almost all of his adult life in the Army. After graduating from Elizabeth City High School in 1967, he joined the Army and found himself in South Vietnam two years later with a transportation unit, where he served in country for two years. By the time the war ended in 1975, Evans was stationed in Thailand where the U.S. military was supporting the South Vietnamese government before for it fell to the North Vietnamese.

Evans spent a total of 12 years in active service and then 24 in the Army Reserve while juggling a long career with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. While in the reserve, Evans also served in Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm in 1991.

“I guess I’ve had the Army in everything that I have done,” said Evans, who retired to Elizabeth City after being away for five decades. “I’m pretty much Army.”

Evans spent most of his time in Vietnam on a tugboat ferrying supplies to troops. It was a vital assignment as U.S. military personnel needed food, water, ammunition and other supplies to be an effective fighting force.

“I was all over South Vietnam, but my actual unit was based in Saigon,” Evans said. “We hauled everything supporting the troops. If you can’t eat, if you don’t have any fuel, you don’t have any ammunition, you can’t do a lot.”

Evans said his military service in Vietnam and in other countries showed him how fortunate people are to live in the United States.

“It was such a total difference to see how other people lived,” Evans said. “It set the tone for the rest of my life.”

Museum of the Albemarle Director Don Pendergraft said Saturday’s event was part of the museum’s partnership with the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C.

“Part of that is hosting several events to honor veterans,” Pendergraft said. “This is the second time we have honored the veterans and we thought Thanksgiving weekend would be a good time to have it. We need to recognize our veterans while they are still with us.”

The museum opened an exhibit Nov. 8 titled “A Thousand Words, Photographs by Vietnam Veterans.” The traveling exhibit features a collection of images taken by photographer Martin Tucker of North Carolina soldiers in Vietnam. Pendergraft noted that the 50th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War will be in 2025 and that the museum is looking for artifacts from Vietnam veterans in the area to compliment future exhibits.

“We want to have more things to show from our local veterans,” Pendergraft said. “We have a few things, some boots, a field jacket and a full Air Force uniform from local people in the counties that surround the museum. We are still actively searching for items for our collection from our veterans.”