News From Terre Haute, Indiana

November 11, 2013

Honoring all our heroes in uniform

Veterans Museum continues to expand, filling space with memories, memorabilia

Dianne Frances D. Powell
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Displays inside a Terre Haute museum tell stories of war, courage, family and sacrifice.

Veterans Memorial Museum of Terre Haute founder Brian Mundell on Friday spoke enthusiastically about the growth of the museum, which is dedicated to all veterans of the United States.

The Veterans Memorial Museum of Terre Haute is located at 1129 Wabash Ave. in downtown Terre Haute. It is open 9 p.m. to 5 p.m. today, Veterans Day.

Opened almost exactly a year ago on Veterans Day 2012, the museum has doubled in size thanks to the increase of military memorabilia donated by area veterans and their families.

Last year, Mundell estimated the museum’s size at about 1,100 square feet. But an entire back room of comparable size has since been added.

There have been more than 200 military items added to the collection since the museum opened, Mundell said.

And one of the newer displays tells the story a family’s intergenerational military legacy.

The display, located near the entrance to the museum, consists of uniforms and medals that belonged to Wabash Valley resident Charles Hord Ray and his family. Ray was a Marine who served in World War II. His father served in World War I, and Ray’s son served in the Vietnam War, Mundell said.

The uniforms of the three men, representing three armed conflicts, were on display together.

Mundell was very excited about this new addition because he previously had father-son displays but this is the first father-son-grandfather (three generations) display at the museum.

Also included in the Ray family display are pictures and Purple Hearts of two of Ray’s other relatives, one of whom served in the Civil War, Mundell said.

Mundell also showed a display of uniforms from another military family. This time, a husband and wife.

The uniforms of local residents Bill and Betty Dodson, who both served in the U.S. Navy during WWII, are available for viewing.

The family display included two of Betty Dodson’s uniforms.

Mundell said he was thrilled when they “called me out of the blue.”

“It’s really nice of them to donate those,” Mundell said, particularly of Betty’s uniforms.

The women’s items are “hard to get,” he said. “It’s always a thrill for me to get the items straight from the veterans” and to know the history behind the items. But a lot of the items are also donated by children and other relatives of veterans.

Also on display are military uniforms of other well-known area individuals, including former Terre Haute North Vigo High School principal Carl S. Riddle, who served in WWII and Korean War.

New additions also include two paintings by a German prisoner, donated by Captain John T. Craig, a veteran who was in charge of a German prisoner of war camp during WWII. Other items he donated are two of his own uniforms (one of which was made by a German prisoner), and a belt buckle that once belonged to a German soldier.

“He’s very proud of his military history and wanted people to see it,” Mundell said.

And he is happy to receive the items.

“It’s nice to be able to honor” these veterans, said Mundell, whose passion for collecting military memorabilia created the museum. “It’s nice to get their items and display it. I feel like we’re trying to preserve this history for future generations.”

 Inside the museum, there were also, helmets, radio equipment, maps, banners, pictures, old newspapers and even a tent.

Displays are in chronological order ,starting with WWI and moving on to more recent conflicts.

Mundell said he is seeking more military memorabilia from the Korean War and Vietnam War.

Korean War was called the forgotten war, Mundell said. He did not want visitors to think that he’s “forgotten” to represent that war in the museum as well.

“My goal is to show respect to all veterans, no matter when or where they served,” he said.

It is a goal he has passed on to his 13-year-old son, Jason, who regularly helps out at the museum.

“He’s put in a lot of hours on this,” Mundell said of his son, who was with him at the museum on Saturday.

Maintaining the museum has become a father-son activity.

And it’s all for the veterans.

Mundell sees the museum as “hopefully, just a place you can come to gain some knowledge” and understanding of what the veterans have been through.

“A place of respect for veterans, a place that shows their sacrifice,” Mundell said.

As visitors leave the museum, they see a display of three casket shipping containers, with names of individuals from Vigo County whose caskets were shipped in those containers.

“That’s the price of war, right there,” Mundell said.

Tribune-Star Reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299 or dianne.powell@