by CAROL McEWEN, for the Sun Gazette
Recently I visited a place that honors veterans every day, not just once a year. It’s the brainchild of my classmate, Judge Jim Osborne, and is called the Indiana Military Museum, in Vincennes, Ind.
Jim began collecting military memorabilia as a child: a Civil War musket from his dad and some captured German items from his neighbor, a World War II veteran.
During high school, we all knew of Jim’s obsession. He even brought some of his treasures to show us. At least one of us said, “Gee, Jim, that’s really neat,” in the tone used for a slightly addled old uncle on Thanksgiving.
So I approached the museum, incorporated in 1984, with more than a touch of skepticism. But I was completely awed when I spied the imposing site, fueled solely by the modest $8 entry fee, donations, membership fees and an occasional grant. Fifty zealous volunteers help Jim run the place.
What a unique and fascinating experience! It’s unique because, when possible, the exhibits focus on the military service of local boys.
Suddenly it’s not “those soldiers” or “the Marines” or “some sailor.” It’s my childhood friend, John Piper, a soldier in Vietnam; or my Marine Corps brother Ace Edwards, who died in Korea; or another high-school pal, Rick Purnell, who was a Navy pilot.
Every member of our family found something interesting. My grandson and his dad loved the 15 aircraft, 20 artillery pieces and 25 restored military vehicles on the sprawling 14-acre site. My son-in-law said, “I could spend all day here!”
Meanwhile, I was reading the familiar donor names of many items inside, including a uniform of Gen. Eisenhower, the tanker jacket of Gen. Patton and Gen. Colin Powell’s dress uniform.
In the newly opened annex, my husband, daughter and granddaughters were busy inspecting replicas: a Vietnam foxhole and a re-created cathedral from a World War II battle scene, both complete with mannequins in uniform.
Apparently we’re not the only ones who found the place interesting since the 15,000 annual visitors have come from 65 foreign countries. Gen. William Westmoreland also visited, donated a uniform and said the museum “may well be the finest collection of military memorabilia I’ve seen across the U.S.”
Who knew that a childhood hobby could turn into an informative, unique place helping us learn our history?
If you have military artifacts which need a new home, or want to get the museum newsletter: https://indianamilitarymuseum.webs.com/.
Reach Carol McEwen at email@example.com.