The Veterans Memorial Museum at 1129 Wabash Ave. is celebrating its fifth anniversary this year, and founder Brian Mundell never imagined the overwhelming response it has received.

"It's been great. There have been thousands of people who have been in, not just from around the Wabash Valley, but all over the country. In fact, there have been some from Europe," said Mundell, who has a passion for military history.

Visitors often learn about the museum by searching online for things to do in Terre Haute. The museum appears deceptively small from the outside, and people are often surprised by its size and all the displays.

The 2,000 square-foot museum is filled with a variety of military memorabilia from World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan.

"People are always bringing things in. You never know what's going to come through the door," he said. The donations have enabled him to put in many new displays since the museum opened.

People donate items from their own military experiences or that of a relative. "I appreciate the fact they entrust me to display their family's items and try to preserve that and honor their veterans," he said.

When the museum first opened, Mundell had collected most of the items, but since then, "I'd say almost 50 percent of the contents have been donated ... a fair amount of WWI and Korean War items and a lot of WWII and Vietnam War items, even Japanese, Nazi, Vietcong, and Iraqi items."

The museum focuses on Wabash Valley veterans. "I think one of the neat things about my museum is how personal it is ... I like to put the veteran's name on the item, where they are from, and sometimes I'm lucky enough to get a picture of the veteran, which enables me to put a name and a face to the items."

He's met many people through the museum, and "I love to hear the stories of the veterans" and the stories behind the items they share, he said. Mundell has visited World War II battlegrounds including Normandy and Iwo Jima and takes special interest when he talks to veterans who have fought there.

While museum visits from World War II vets are becoming fewer and fewer, "There are a lot of Vietnam veterans who come in," he said. "I don't want people to think this is just a WWII museum. It honors all veterans."

The museum is open from noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays, and there is no charge, although donations are welcome; tours by appointment also are welcome. On Veterans Day this year, a Saturday, Mundell plans to keep the Veterans Memorial Museum open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Mundell said he's also been fortunate to have volunteers who have staffed the museum when he's had to be absent; those volunteers include Bill Foraker and Jim Schoene.

He thanks all those who have donated and all those who have volunteered since the museum's opening. "I'm always looking for future volunteers," he said.

The museum is a labor of love for Mundell, whose goal is "to show respect for all these men and women" who have faithfully served their country.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or at sue.loughlin@tribstar.com Follow Sue on Twitter @TribStarSue.

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