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Art museum in Chicago gives veterans a place to heal

Chicago museum shows work by U.S. veterans
Chicago museum showcases the work of U.S. veterans 02:27

In Chicago, there is a home for the art of war. 

The National Veterans' Art Museum, which was founded in 1981 by the Vietnam Veterans Art Group, offers a space for those who served to share their stories, talent and trauma. 

Artists like Dr. Charles Smith, 82, see it as a place where he and others like him can heal. Smith was just 25 when he was drafted and sent to Vietnam. 

"That mission right there was what we do, search and destroy," Smith said. 

Ever since he came home, he's relied on art to help him heal. 

"You gotta get to the place, not a psychiatrist, not a counselor, but somebody that has buried the burden that you buried and that way they can counsel you out of it," Smith said. "I felt that when I got home, that it was necessary to make sure that legacy of that war was not forgotten, especially the most important part of it: That Blacks and Whites fought together. We died together." 

Smith's combat tour may have been more than a half-century ago, but he told CBS News that veterans of all ages still understand the weight of war. 

Giselle Futrell, the executive director of the museum, enrolled in the Marines right out of high school and was serving in Afghanistan at just 21 years old. Now, she hopes the museum can inform visitors and help its artists heal. Its 2,500-piece collection includes works from World War II, the Vietnam War, the Korean War, the Gulf War and the Global War on Terror.  

"It's a place to inspire dialogue. It's a place where we can start to talk about the things that are uncomfortable," Futrell said. "Human beings aren't designed to go to those uncomfortable places, but sometimes we have to, if we want to make progress. The best thing that the public can do for our veterans is to listen, so this is a place of listening." 

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