Remembering those who served

by | Aug 2022

MY GRANDFATHER was a World War II veteran. He served as a staff sergeant for the United States military.

He woke each morning and raised the American Flag, displaying it proudly from a front yard flagpole. Each evening he would take it down and fold it as he was taught during his time in service, all the while making sure it never touched the ground. His war medals were displayed in a glass case in his bedroom, next to a color picture of him that was taken overseas.

Those few items and memories, along with a few stories of his time in France, was all I knew of my grandfather and his time in the military. While it was obvious, he was proud of the time he served, it was also not a time he spoke a lot about. Now that he has passed, I’ve learned more about his service and just how important it was.

My grandfather’s time in service, along with countless other veterans, is not only important for them and their families but for the country as well.

Photographed by Brooke Snyder.

We owe them our thanks, our honor, and our time to remember them and their service.

One such place that is offering locals and visitors alike, to do just this, is the Sam H. Werner Military Museum.

Located atop the mountain in Monteagle, the museum has been open since 2017, working to pay tribute to veterans and serve as a reminder for younger generations of the importance of such service.

Marching orders from a most-beloved friend

The idea for the museum came from Sam H. Werner. Affectionately known to friends and family as “Bud,” Warner was an avid collector of all things military.

Photographed by Brooke Snyder.

Upon his passing he left instructions for a military museum to be created, displaying some of his most prized military possessions. Friends, such as Parker Lowndes, Freddy Cunningham, Mark Stewart, and Paul (PC) Flury, were among those appointed by Werner to help make his dream of a museum a reality.

When he passed away it was in his will,” said Lowndes, “There were certain people he wanted to be on the board. There were a series of processes and questions that both the board and advisors of the museum worked through together. Several advisors, like Mike Ellis, Terry Manley, and Elizabeth Taylor, have joined the museum as it has grown. We’ve also added numerous volunteers that help to support the museum in many ways.”

Since opening its doors, the museum has seen a steady growth of items being added to the collection and patrons visiting. The collection consists of items from WWI to the present day. Everything from war medals, vehicles, uniforms, non-functioning weapons, and the list of items continues to grow, according to Lowndes.

“We started out with seven vehicles in the front room and 11 in the back room,” he said. “They were just vehicles sitting on concrete floors, no signage, no anything.” We currently have over 70 vehicles along with many display cabinets and soft goods that support each time frame. We are very excited to display items from Camp Forrest and the 1941-43 Tennessee Maneuvers, since they played an important role in WWII and showcase our local history.”

Photographed by Brooke Snyder.

Today, the museum’s dedicated group of volunteers works painstakingly to make sure each display is correct down to the smallest detail.

“It’s about the individual displays with the men and women in uniform,” explained Ellis. “You are talking about five [military] services. I served in the Army so I didn’t wear a Marine Corp uniform or a Navy uniform, and they evolved between different wars. So we have to dig a little deeper as to how these men and women would dress and how they should be displayed appropriately. And if we’ve got a person to connect to it, whose items have been donated on behalf of, that makes it even more personal. They have their own medals and achievements that must be displayed in a certain way. And we want to do it correctly and make sure it’s right. The worst thing is to throw something on a uniform and put someone’s name on it and have them or their family see and know that it’s not correct.”

Lowndes added that by correctly displaying these items, they are helping to tell important stories of veterans that might not have been shared otherwise.

“Most of these veterans didn’t speak of their time in the service,” he said. “Some who are still living are just now sharing what they went through. We dig through letters and pictures and try to find out how best to represent these soldiers. It’s about collecting information that’s sometimes more than 70 years old and sharing their time in service as best we can.”

When asked what Werner would think of the museum, Lowndes said he would “love it.”

“He always liked all these things and was very proud of what he collected. He liked to share them with friends. It’s great to have his friends visit and tell us how glad these items and memories are surviving and moving forward.”

The museum welcomes people of all ages to come and visit. Veterans, church groups, Boy Scouts, civic organizations, clubs, and schools; all are welcome to come and honor and pay tribute to American veterans.

The museum is located at 1148 W. Main St. in Monteagle and is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. They will also open for special/ private tours if given a little notice and can arrange for a volunteer to join the special tour. Visit the museum online at www.wernermilitarymuseum.com or on Facebook at Sam H. Werner Military Museum. GN

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