We have visited a lot of museums around the country that honor our nation’s veterans, from the huge National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, to the Army Aviation Museum at Fort Rucker, Alabama, the West Point Museum in New York, and many more too numerous to list here. One of the most interesting and friendly ones we have been to is the Alabama Veterans Museum in the small town of Athens, in northern Alabama.
While not as large as many of the museums we have toured, what sets this museum apart is that its focus is not on any one war, or on major battles in any war. Instead, the museum tells the personal stories of the men and women from Alabama who served their nation throughout history.
Located in the old L&N Freight Depot in Athens, the museum displays military uniforms, weapons, medals, and artifacts from the Civil War to the present-day conflicts in the Mideast and the War on Terror.
The weapons on display at the museum include everything from Civil War era single-shot muskets and cap-and-ball revolvers to World War I bolt action Springfield rifles, World War II Thompson submachine guns and M1 carbines, all the way to today’s sophisticated fully automatic rifles.
There is even a display of rockets that are fired from tracked vehicles.
There are books, photographs, newspapers, and oral histories shared by veterans of various wars to put a personal face on something so impersonal as war.
Women veterans are also honored with exhibits on the various female military branches and the important role that women have played throughout our nation’s military history.
The people on the home front are not forgotten, either. The museum honors those who stayed behind to keep the home fires burning in times of conflict so their loved ones in uniform had something to come home to.
It has often been said that war is days of complete boredom broken up occasionally by moments of sheer terror. Anybody who has been to war can tell you that’s true. Throughout time, when they’re not fighting, eating, sleeping, or preparing to fight, many military people have kept themselves busy by creating what is known as trench art. This can be anything from woodcarvings to painting to scrimshaw, or anything else they can get their hands on. The museum has a display of World War I shells that have been elaborately carved by bored soldiers looking for some way to occupy their time and their minds to provide an escape from their reality.
Volunteers who are veterans themselves are on hand to give tours of the museum, answer questions, and explain the different exhibits to visitors.
The next time you are traveling through Alabama on Interstate 65, make it a point to stop off in Athens. It’s a friendly little town, and you will come away from the Alabama Veterans Museum with an added appreciation for the men and women who answered America’s call to keep all us free.
Located at 100 Pryor Street in Athens, the museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9 AM to 3 PM. For more information, call (256) 771-7578.
Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an RV camping journal donated by Barbara House. Barbara makes several variations of these, and they all have pages where you can list the date, weather, where you traveled to and from that day, beginning and ending mileage, campground information including amenities at RV sites, a place for a campground rating, room to record activities, people met along the way, reminders of places to see and things to do the next time you’re in the area, and a page for notes for each day.
To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.
Thought For The Day – If we switched back to writing cursive and driving stick shift cars, we could cripple an entire generation.