Weaverville – From time immemorial, kings and countries have been sending people off to wars. In his famous “Charge of the Light Brigade,” Alfred Lord Tennyson said, “Theirs not to reason why Theirs but to do and die.” Either voluntarily or involuntarily due to a draft, men and women have gone off to war, some never returning home alive. Memorial Day is a day that commemorates all who served and died in service to the United States.
In recognition of the sacrifices made, the Dry Ridge Museum has set up a new exhibit featuring military uniforms along with pictures and displays. The gallery at the Community Center at Dottie Sherrill Knoll runs through the 4th of July.
“It’s Memorial Day,” replied Museum Director Judy Craggs, when asked why they were having the military theme of added displays in the gallery. Craggs thanked the area residents who made the collection possible by loaning uniforms, pictures and other related items.
Uniform-dressed manikins representing conflicts all the way back to the Civil War are on display along with photographs of in action soldiers and historical recruitment posters. In addition there are letters and other items that chronicle the soldier’s intimate experiences of its country’s military past. “We’re out to support the town’s Memorial Day celebration. So we will be open on Memorial Day.”
Craggs said they have “a little bit on the Civil War, and we also have World War I, World War II, Vietnam and Korea, obviously.” There is also a bit on more recent conflicts. “Bill Penley, one of our volunteers, has Korean War memorabilia and a uniform in the showcase,” she explained. “And we have several women’s uniforms.” She pointed out one of the first Army women’s nurse uniforms, which was “the first time they were allowed to wear trousers in World War II. It’s a sharp-looking uniform.” The museum also has “Aunt Pearl” Weaver’s World War I nurses’ uniform and a female Marine uniform.
Other displays include a reenactment uniform of a Confederate soldier, on loan from Guy Brigman, alongside a display case of Civil War memorabilia. There is an entire level of pictures showing Weaverville men who were killed in World War II, letters, and other artifacts from past conflicts.
“A gentleman came in the other day who said, ‘We have a picture of one of our relatives from the Civil War.’ This is a chalk drawing, which is … kind of rare,” said Craggs as she presented the picture on display. She went on to explain that Private Callahan was in the Confederacy before he was captured and sent to a New York prisoner-of-war camp. There he lost his eyesight.
Craggs clarified that the uniforms are “on loan to the museum.” When asked how she reached out to the community for those interested in displaying the uniforms, Craggs said, “just people we knew and people we could contact and some people just showed up at the museum and said, Oh, could I bring this. I have this. Of course, veterans love to come in and tell their stories too. So it’s a good place for them to share and meet other people who might have been in their area of service or even in their unit sometimes.”
Craggs recounts one story from a series of letters that are on display. These letters were found in a home in Woodland Hills. They were from a mother to the military trying to find out the status of her son, who was in the Pacific during World War II. After several letters, the military first responded in June of 1942 that in light of no information on her son, they assumed that he was fine, but later, in November of 1942, the man’s commanding officer wrote a letter to the mother telling her he had been lost at sea at the Battle of Midway. A battle that was a turning point to America’s favor in the campaign against Japan.
For those who’d like to see the display, the museum is open Wednesday – Saturday from 11 am – 5 pm and will be open after the 11 am Weaverville Memorial Day event from noon until 3 pm.