TERRE HAUTE —
Brian Mundell has taken his passion for collecting war memorabilia and created a museum that honors all American veterans.
Just as Mundell had hoped, the Veterans Memorial Museum of Terre Haute will have its grand opening at noon Sunday, which is Veterans Day. Mayor Duke Bennett will be a guest speaker.
The museum, located at 1129 Wabash Ave., will be open for tours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. There is no admission fee.
Mundell expects a large turnout. The Veterans Day parade at 10:15 a.m. will go past the museum, and the Vigo County Veterans Council will host a memorial service at VFW Post 972 at 12th and Mulberry, also near the museum.
“I hope everyone doesn’t show up at once because this place is only so big,” he said, estimating the museum’s size at about 1,100 square feet.
A collector of war items over the years — items that he’s bought or that veterans have given to him — Mundell has uniforms, helmets, practice shells, maps, radio equipment, pictures flags and even World War II cigarettes.
The east section of the museum focuses on World War I and II, and the west section on Korea, Vietnam and modern-day wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Collecting war memorabilia is his passion, Mundell said. He and his family have visited Normandy, site of the D-Day invasion during World War II, and he’s taken his son to Iwo Jima. He’s also interviewed veterans as part of the Veterans History Project.
Mundell decided to take his large collection and create a museum, located next door to his business, which is Superior Kitchen and Bath.
“It’s my way of preserving these things for future generations so that hopefully, no one will ever forget about our veterans,” he said.
People in the United States sometimes take their freedoms for granted, freedoms they wouldn’t have without veterans willing to fight — and die — for their country, Mundell said.
After Sunday, the museum will be open from 2 to 6 p.m. Saturdays and also by appointment.
Mundell plans to staff it himself, as much as possible. “I know where the items came from, who gave it to me and a little of the history behind it,” he said. When he knows the history, he places the information on a card and attaches it to the items on display.
Since publicity began about the museum, he’s received additional donations of items and funds, with $5,000 from the Marine Corps League and $5,001 from the American Legion Post 104. “They wanted to outdo the Marine Corps League. I told them I liked their competition,” Mundell said.
Still, he’s funded most of the project himself.
As visitors enter, the displays are in chronological order, starting with World War I. Mundell and his son used donated, 100-year-old barn wood and barbed wire to re-create a World War I trench.
Another donation was a suit a man wore when he was inducted into the army during World War II. “To me, this is really cool. Look at how dressed up he was when he went,” Mundell said.
He also has a display case full of items from the German and Japanese “enemy” during World War II — three Japanese flags, two Nazi flags, a German helmet and binoculars, and a German propaganda book about Adolph Hitler.
One veteran, George Graesch, brought back a Japanese military cap from Iwo Jima.
Earl Van Scoyk, who spent time in a German prison camp, brought back an architectural site plan of the prison camp, Stalag 9. Van Scoyk also had a picture of a 65-year-old German prison guard who befriended several Americans. Both items are at the museum.
Van Scoyk died several months ago, Mundell said.
Another display features photos by veteran Richard Martin, who was at Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked on Dec. 7, 1941. The museum has original pictures taken by Martin, who was in one of the barracks when the attack occurred. One of the Japanese planes “crashed into his barracks,” and Martin, who has passed way, took a photo of the aftermath, Mundell said.
After Mundell’s effort to start a museum was publicized, he receive a collection of uniforms and other items from the Vietnam War era.
As people leave the museum, they will see a World War II casket container. On that, Mundell will place pictures of more recent fallen warriors: U.S. Army Sgt. Dale Griffin, who was killed in October 2009 while serving in Afghanistan, and U.S. Army Sgt. Kyle Childress, who was killed while serving in Iraq in January 2005.
“On their way out, I want people to see that this is the cost of war,” Mundell said.
In front of the museum and to the east, a lighted, outdoor mural depicts iconic images from World War I, World War II, the Korean and Vietnam conflicts and modern-day wars in the Middle East. The mural is on a building owned by Mundell, who hired artist Jim Shepard to paint it.
Images include the famous World War II flag-raising on Iwo Jima, the World War I Uncle Sam “I Want You” poster and a 38th parallel sign, symbolic of the Korean War.
The mural “will bring attention to the museum, which will hopefully bring attention to veterans,” he said previously.
He continues to accept donations of items and funds, and he already is thinking about how he can expand his museum. He would like more items from women and minority veterans.
Mundell can be reached at 812-208-1396.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.