By Janis Allen
On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month—November 11, 1918—the armistice was signed to end WWI. Declared Armistice Day, November 11, in the US, is now called Veterans Day—a national holiday to honor all military veterans who served. The Veterans History Museum of the Carolinas invites the public to its Veterans Day Observance to honor all veterans on Thursday, November 11, at 11 a.m. at the museum, located in Brevard.
The keynote speaker will be Ken Corn, a former Iraq War correspondent, WLOS-TV photojournalist and the museum’s vice president. The Transylvania County Honor Guard and Daughters of the American Revolution members will also participate. The museum will be open for tours until 3 p.m. with free admission.
Emmett Casciato established the museum in 2016, joined in his efforts by Corn and Air Force veteran Tom Bugala, who donated artifacts and organized outdoor displays and re-enactments. The 4,000-square-foot building is filled with historic items. With more historic artifacts than can be exhibited, the museum board now seeks the means to purchase a larger space. A non-profit organization staffed entirely by volunteers, the museum funds growth and operating expenses through donations.
Gatherings at the museum are held as a way to honor veterans and to educate others. The museum offers programs presented by veterans who were there, including Cold War U-2 pilot Duke Woodhull; WWII P-47 fighter pilot Ed Cottrell; and Andrew Biggio, Iraq and Afghanistan Marine veteran and author of The Rifle: Combat Stories from America’s Last WWII Veterans.
Vietnam veteran Phil Mayrand leads a monthly discussion group, Veterans’ Coffee and Conversation. Veterans team up to work as Pathfinders (docents) in the museum. Visitors, who often spot artifacts that bring back memories, are encouraged to tell their own stories.
Another way the museum honors veterans is by sharing their stories, now collected into three books. When I was touring the museum, I wanted to find a way to support its growth. I did so by interviewing local WWII veterans and recording their stories. The resulting published book is titled We Shall Come Home Victorious: Stories of WWII Veterans.
Museum volunteer Michel Robertson interviewed 31 Vietnam War veterans for a 15-month series for the Transylvania Times. The articles, compiled into a book, tell stories of veterans who served in-country. Many describe experiences never revealed even to their families. The title, Welcome Home Brother: Memoirs of Vietnam War Veterans, references the salutation Vietnam veterans share with each other, having been denied this greeting upon their return home from war.
A third book honoring veterans, written by Michael McCarthy, will be launched during the November 11 Observance at the museum. Titled The Forgotten War Remembered: Stories of Korean War Veterans in Their Own Words, it will be available immediately after the ceremony, with veterans in attendance signing their chapters in the book.
Janis Allen is a volunteer and board member at the museum and author of We Shall Come Home Victorious: Stories of WWII Veterans. The Veterans History Museum of the Carolinas is located at 21 East Main Street, in Brevard. Hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Call 828.884.2141 or visit TheVeteransMuseum.org.