A Show Of Service

Veterans Exhibit Opens At Plains Museum

Posted: May 23, 2013

The recently opened veterans exhibit at the Plains District Memorial Museum honors Valley servicemen and women, displaying uniforms and weapons used in various conflicts, as well as propaganda materials (BELOW). The museum is open from 1-4 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, free of charge. (Photo by Katie King / DN-R, Features)
Marilyn Monroe poses with servicemen in one of the historic photos now on display at the Plains District Memorial Museum. (Photo by Katie King / DN-R, Features)
Rough-textured green Army uniforms from World War II. A pointy piece of barbed wire fencing from the De-militarized Zone in Korea. A faded American flag that was once draped over the coffin of a Timberville teen killed in World War I.

These are just a few of the items on display as part of a special veterans exhibit at the Plains District Memorial Museum in Timberville. According to volunteer museum coordinator and president Helen Smith, the patriotic spirit of local residents inspired the ongoing display.

“Many of the people here [in the Valley] are really patriotic and really appreciative of our veterans,” she said.

The exhibit, which will run until the end of August, features only items borrowed or donated from locals in the Plains District. Although Smith says the museum generally attracts an older crowd, she encourages parents to bring their children to learn about the nation’s past.

“We would love to see more children here. I think it’s important that they come and see exhibits like this because it adds dimension to what they study,” she said. “It gives meaning to what they read in class.”

In addition to the artifacts, cubicle walls are filled with war-related photographs, stories and newspaper clippings. One of Smith’s favorite stories is about the lookout tower established in Broadway to monitor suspicious air activity during World War II.

“There were volunteers who manned it round-the-clock,” she says, pointing to the photograph. “[Now], a family in Timberville [has] converted it into a playhouse for their children.”

Another photograph shows local veteran Gene Driver posing with Marilyn Monroe while serving in the Korean War.

The exhibit also features a digital library to share the personal stories of six local residents who were killed in combat.

According to Smith, the museum’s volunteers extensively researched the soldiers’ backgrounds to create an authentic picture of what it was like for young men to “leave the Valley and their families and be shipped off to fight in foreign countries.”

A small collection of military weapons, such as a hand grenade and a MAS 36 rifle from the French Infantry in WWII, can be viewed through glass-enclosed cases. Looking at the military equipment on display, Smith is struck by how far society has advanced, in terms of technology.

“It’s just such a contrast,” she says.

While the weapons they carried in previous decades may be different from today, the photographs in their pockets — such as one belonging to a WWII soldier of his two blonde-haired daughters back home — could just as easily be found on a parent serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, proving that — despite societal changes or advancements, meaning the challenges associated with missing loved ones have essentially remained the same.

Contact Katie King at (540) 574-6271 or kking@dnronline.com.

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