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Veterans are Real People

Picture 1A small sign at Dixie Avenue reads Putnam County Veterans Hall.  I drove my van down a narrow driveway beside the County Court Clerk’s Office and parked on the lower level behind the red brick building.  “Are you sure this is really a museum?” my oldest Grand asked.  I read aloud the sign on the door: Putnam County Archives and Veterans Hall.  Yes, we were at the right place.

“What’s a ‘vetrun’?” asked my four-year-old Grand.  Someone who was in the military, the armed forces.  “What’s armed forces?”  That was harder to explain to my Grands, ages 4, 6, and 8.  It was time to go inside the building and look around.

We met the first soldier.  Standing life-size and wearing full army uniform.  A mannequin, inside a wooden showcase with a glass front and mirrored back.  On a small gold plaque, the veteran’s name, rank, and where he had served were printed.  We saw more showcases and dozens of framed photographs of men and women in military uniforms.  Photographs hanging from ceiling to floor.

My Grands and I wandered among the maze-like hallways and commented about men with mustaches, women wearing white sailor uniforms, rifles inside showcases.  We saw veterans who served during the War of 1812, the Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Desert Storm, Afghanistan, Iraq, and all the years between.  There were 800 photographs and 75 mannequins in showcases honoring veterans of all branches of the armed forces.

 “Are these real people?” my young Grand asked.  Yes, each and every veteran is a real person.  Like my daddy and Husband’s father who served during World War II, and my brother who served in the Air Force about fifty years ago.  Every veteran is somebody’s child, somebody’s brother or sister, somebody’s husband or wife, somebody’s father or mother.

Inside one showcase beside a solider were photographs of a young man, before enlisting in the military.  As a high school senior, wearing a mortarboardAs a groom, standing beside his bride.  As a parent, holding a baby boy.  A real person.

Veterans are real people who left their homes and joined the Armed Forces.  Who lived in, as a friend told me, an alien environment.   He fought in Viet Nam, and he said that serving in the military was a mind and body bender.  A way of life that I cannot imagine. A way of life that I wanted my young Grands to glimpse, even if all they understood was that veterans had worn different kinds of uniforms and had lived far from home.

Let’s all honor veterans on Veteran’s Day, Monday, November 11.  Thank a veteran.  Tell your children and grandchildren stories about their relatives who are veterans.  Sing a patriotic song.  Fly the American flag.  Visit the cemetery.  Visit the Putnam County Veterans Hall.  Veterans are real people.  Real heroes.

The Putnam County Veterans Hall, located at 121 B Dixie Avenue, will be open on Veteran’s Day from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Regular hours: Wednesday – Friday, 12-4:00 p.m. Call (931) 520-0042 for more information.