Many of us have family members who have served in the Armed Forces. Perhaps you have served, yourself. There is something for everyone at the Veterans Memorial Museum in Chehalis. With the mission statement “They shall not be forgotten” the museum does a fantastic job of telling the stories of veterans from the local area.
They Shall Not Be Forgotten
I took my family to visit, expecting to see exhibits of weapons and uniforms, and truthfully they have those, but what I found was a collection of deeply moving stories of individuals who served our nation. We were fortunate enough to have a guided tour from one of the many volunteers at the museum who took the time to share his favorite displays.
A Massive Amount Of History
The main display hall is approximately 9,000 square feet and the displays are organized by time period from the Revolutionary War up through today. It is easy to wander through and read the information on your own, but I recommend more than one visit to fully experience the impact.
And if a volunteer guide is available, take them up on a tour. These folks have amazing insights and are enthusiastic about bringing the stories to life.
Like most people, I have never served. I have relatives, including my father, who did serve and I always wanted to know more of what they went through. But one thing those veterans all had in common was an inability to describe their experiences to someone who never shared them.
This is why the Veterans Memorial Museum was such a moving experience for me; I was finally able to hear from veterans the stories of what they went through on our behalf. And those stories are amazing.
Leaving a Legacy
Many of the exhibits were built from materials that family members have donated. I heard more than one story from our guide of family members seeing the museum and then bringing in a relative’s uniform and medals or other gear, saying they wanted to share them that others would know what their relative had done.
If you have items that would fit in, the museum would love to hear from you.
The Chehalis valley was home to five recipients of the Medal of Honor, and their stories are displayed in the museum. I particularly enjoyed the displays relating to radio communications during both war time and peace.
I also spent a lot of time reading through the displays for our first few decades as a nation. Our family is already planning to revisit the museum, hopefully with one of our family members who served in Vietnam. I expect the story telling to get pretty wild if we can get him talking with other veterans there, maybe hearing more of what he went through.
What to Know Before You Go
The museum originally opened in 1997 in a storefront in Centralia, but moved to its current larger location just off Interstate 5 in 2008.
In addition to the display hall, the museum has a large reference library of military history books, a nice gift shop to help support the museum, and a café area where people can relax and talk.
Our visit was very emotional; my wife and I both had fathers that served in the Pacific in WWII, and out son is considering military service.
But there were also moments of humor. One of those for me was a newspaper article detailing the exploits of a local man who served as a tank destroyer in WWII with a headline “Local man chases tanks around town with a bazooka.”
The other one that made me laugh was finding the perfect desk accessory for a writer who has been accused of getting surly with editors.
The Veterans Memorial Museum’s website is http://www.veteransmuseum.org. They are open Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. They are also open on Sundays throughout the summer months.