Friday, November 13, 2015

Visiting a very special place for Veterans Day 2015

Wednesday was the eleventh day of the eleventh month….in America that means it’s Veteran’s Day.  A friend had told me about a Vietnam War Museum somewhere near Ruckersville, VA a few months ago and I filed it as something to check out over the winter.  Then last month at our AirFest event a gentleman talked with Lou about the Vietnam War Museum that he volunteered at and that we should check it out.  Lou is a Vietnam Veteran and put together a private cruise to the Museum on Veterans Day.  Lou & Arlene, Fred, David and the Princess & I met up at the Reva Fire & Rescue from 4 different directions.  Then Lou led the motley little crew south on Rt. 29 as we tried to find our way to the Vietnam War Foundation Museum. 

Lou is a firm; no make that devoted, advocate of the GPS technology.  We had a little….diversion….from the route to the museum.  But hey, it was a very nice day to be driving aimlessly around the spectacular Virginia countryside.  It really was fun for me.  I usually lead our cruises but today I was just following David’s awesome blue Mustang, who was following Fred’s red/white ’57 Dodge, who was following Lou’s red ’53 Ford Sunliner, who was following Helga….that lives in Lou’s GPS.  Lou explained how something had happened to his GPS….how Helga was getting him back for not updating her software on a regular schedule….how sunspots effect the GPS satellites….how the clouds were articulating the signal and bending it because of the coriolis effect north of the equator….or something like that….  He finally admitted it was an operator programming error….?  So now Lou is the keeper of the “Boone & Magellan Broken Compass Award” and the “Daniel Boone Hat” for leading us astray….until the next leader leads us off course.

When we turned off the hard road onto the single lane, nicely maintained gravel road we still hadn’t seen anything resembling a museum, much less one with armored vehicles, helicopters and airplanes!  After cruising a little further we finally made a left turn and tucked in near the trees was the unmistakable outline of an Army Huey helicopter!  Then I saw an Air Force O-2 Skymaster (The Duck) on the left of the road and poking out from the trees behind the Huey was the nose of a C-47 Gooney Bird….it turned out to be an AC-47, a much feared gunship of the era.  The museum volunteers swarmed our cars to help us park then welcomed us to their special place.

This museum is a treasure trove of artifacts from the Vietnam War….but it’s so much more.  The volunteers breathe life into the inanimate objects of that war.  They tell the stories both personal and general of the war that took so many Americans from us.  They tell the story from getting off the bus at the draft center, then to boot camp, then to being in country.  They share the sad stories and the funny ones.  The harrowing near death experiences to the surreal unexplainable encounters with the horrors of mortal combat.  The volunteers share and educate from the perspective of ones that were there, not ones that read a book about it.  They also keep a sharp eye out for people that know they want to visit but can’t.  They help them with their demons in a constructive way that transcends a loose fellowship to a brotherhood. 

One of the Volunteers is a Mr. Shotwell….yeah, Shotwell….I saw him but was unable to meet him before he left….next time.  Well Mr. Shotwell is a master model maker, painter, restorer, archivist, researcher….most of the “built” items in the museum has felt his hand on them.  The murals on the walls were done by him.  The armaments that were incomplete were made complete by him.  Check out the rockets in the pod on the wing of the O-2!  We were able to meet the curator/owner, Craig, for a brief conversation right before we left….but Bob was our host/guide for the day.  Bob was patient with the ones that didn’t know anything about the items displayed and was also able to explain them in depth for some of us that wanted more information than usual.  But his patience and kindness with us was the best….  Pretty much everyone in our great Country has been touched by that time in our history and this is a place that will make the books come alive. 

This museum is only open to the public a few times a year; you should contact them for their schedule.  The museum is a “hands on” deal, they encourage the visitors to touch and sit in/on many of the vehicles.  They encourage schools to schedule field trips to their museum to better understand a very important part of our history.  We are going to corroborate with them on an event next year….stay tuned! 

This is the link to their website;

This is their Facebook page;

These are the pictures we took of our visit;

After our visit to the museum we gathered up and began our cruise to….FOOD.  The Princess & Arlene like to visit Ciro’s Italian restaurant if we are within….50 miles of Elkton, VA….so we ended the day with a great Italian meal.  Our cruise back to our respective homes was uneventful and pleasant….I love this job/hobby!

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