- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The country celebrated its independence last week, but a local institution hopes everyone celebrates U.S. veterans every day.
The Maryland Veterans Memorial Museum at 11000 Crain Highway in Newburg is open noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. The museum showcases memorabilia and artifacts from all branches of the military and all wars the U.S. has engaged in.
“The very first [exhibit] that we have is our ‘Missing in Action’ table,” said Larry Abell, president of the museum and a veteran of the Vietnam War. “Waiting for the return of the missing [soldiers].”
The table sits in the lobby of the museum with a chair and a place setting. Abell said that the exhibit is symbolic. The round table represents everlasting concern for the fallen and missing. The white tablecloth signifies the U.S.’s purity, and the single red rose in a vase is a reminder of the life of each fallen soldier and their loved ones.
The Department of Veterans Affairs donated replicas of veterans’ tombstones.
Also in the lobby, donated by the Southern Maryland delegation to the General Assembly, are a Maryland state seal, a Maryland state flag and a U.S. flag.
On the wall in the lobby are reproductions of the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, donated by the Library of Congress.
“We basically kind of thought this was the beginning of our country, so we kind of wanted to emphasize those things here,” Abell said.
The museum’s two primary exhibits are on the War of 1812, because of the ongoing 200th anniversary, and the Civil War, because of the 150th anniversary of its start, Abell said.
The War of 1812 exhibit, which Abell said is the museum’s most popular exhibit, is a timeline of events leading up to and during the war.
Military uniforms are displayed throughout the museum. Abell said that the museum is working toward having a uniform from each war. Most recently acquired were uniforms from World War I and the Afghanistan War.
The museum seeks to honor diversity in the military. Exhibits are devoted to the contributions of American Indians, African-American cavalry soldiers who served against American Indians on the Great Plains — Buffalo Soldiers — and women in the military. In the American Indian exhibit, visitors can learn about Ira Hayes from the Pima tribe, who was one of the Marines to raise the flag at Iwo Jima in 1945.
“What we tried to do is we tried to be sensitive to diversity for a number of reasons,” Abell said. “Because we want everybody to feel included in what we are doing. It’s easy to find the traditional things, but it’s much harder to pull together the diverse things.”
A mix of items are on display at the museum, including a tribute to the astronauts of Apollo XI who landed on the moon in 1969; a diagram of the history of famous U.S. flags, such as the Texas Republic flag; and proclamations of the death of a World War I soldier signed by the presidents of the U.S. and France.
Private James A. Oliver served in World War I. Abell said his descendants in Virginia and Charles County donated the proclamations. Oliver did not make it to battle, Abell said. He was killed when a fellow soldier was cleaning his gun in their bunks and the gun discharged.
Recently, a seat from Air Force One from when Ronald Reagan was president was donated to the museum, along with napkins, plates and matchboxes. The plane now is Air Force Two and flies Vice President Joe Biden.
“If you look around, we have a little bit of everything,” Abell said.
Abell said that the plan is to have a base of exhibits that always remain in the museum and a few that rotate in and out. Outdoor exhibits might someday include a retired jet plane from Patuxent River Naval Air Station and a tank. Abell also hopes to hold activities outside the museum, such as antique auto shows and military parades.
A lecture series is conducted every second Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the museum.
The second most popular exhibit is about the history of Glasva School, including photos of alumni and the original building.
The museum, in the former Glasva Elementary School, opened in May after a more than 10-year struggle by volunteers, local government and community members to make it happen. The museum pays the county $1 per year for use of the building and property.
“We’ve always believed, if you believed, you could achieve,” said Marie Halter, executive secretary and historian for the museum’s board. “And there were people that didn’t believe that, but we all believed it and look what we’ve done here.”
If you go
The Maryland Veterans Memorial Museum is open noon-5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, and selected holidays.
Donations are welcome in the form of military artifacts, cash and checks.
Go to www.mdvets.cc.