My Grandpa Oakes sets aside newspaper articles and gives me a manila envelope full of gems about education, politics, and other important things about twice a month. Since we get a newspaper that he doesn’t receive (he gets the Seattle Times and Wall Street Journal and we get the Everett Herald), I thought I should be on the lookout for things he might like to read. When I came across an article about the Seattle Veterans Museum that recently moved to the Everett VFW post, I knew I needed to pop it in the mail. The VFW post happens to be on Oakes Ave so it was a perfect outing for us.
He and my grandma came up today so Grandpa and I could go to the museum. Seeing as it’s housed in extra space at the VFW, we didn’t anticipate being gone that long but I was grateful my grandma was willing to stay home so Serafina could keep napping.
It was really cool. Yeah, the space was about the size of our living/dining room area but there was a lot of really cool stuff.
And the stories. Oh, the stories.
The volunteer staffing the museum, John Chapman, is a Vietnam vet. He told us some stories as we looked around at the items that have been donated by vets over the years. The Seattle Veterans Museum has been around for about 10 years but they lost their space down in the city and the Everett VFW graciously offered them space up here (way to go, Everett!). One of the stories he told was about being in the 101st Airborne and the chant they’d say every time they did a jump. Their commander would say, “What falls from the sky?” To which they would reply, “Airborne and death!” Okay, sorta morbid, but it was war. On their last jump – which was a night flight – they repeated the chant and then their commander told them the actual response they should have to his question: “bird sh** and fools!” Oh, boys at war…
Grandpa also took his turn telling his brother’s Iwo Jima story* as well as a few tales of his own, including one about Army guys trading ice cream for pairs of Marine pants (apparently Army pants were ridiculous and they were jealous of the ones the Marines got to wear).
These are just a few highlights of the artifacts they have at the museum…
There was a frame full of patches from different branches of each service as well as an original copy of a newspaper front page from the Japanese surrender at the end of WWII. There was also a manually operated siren to warn of impending chemical warfare strikes. Produced for WWI, that was a bit terrifying to think about.
I was most enamored with the uniforms. Down to the button, each service member’s uniform had incredible attention to detail. The bottom left photo is of Grandpa’s hands on the utility shirt identical to what he wore in Korea. He told John about how he had found “an outfit” down in California that was making exact reproductions for $200 and he’d someday save up for them. Maybe a Christmas present? 😉
There were many other amazing things but something that caught me as we were leaving was this bracelet, especially the tag that went with it.
“Mrs. Ward came and visited. Left her son’s bracelet.” Dated 11/5/2011.
Mrs. Ward’s son was 19 when he was killed in action. This bracelet reads, “USMC KIA 8/17/90-2/21/10.” He was born 6 years after me and died 3 years ago. I can’t begin to imagine what it would be like to lose a child right as their life was about to begin. And Mrs. Ward thought it important enough to share this small momento with the Veterans Museum. Perhaps it was because she didn’t want the daily reminder of him on her wrist – she probably didn’t need it – but perhaps it was because this way every time someone saw it, they would think of her son and the sacrifice he made. Thank you, Mrs. Ward. And please thank your son for us.
*His brother enlisted at age 17, was in the Marines 17 months, and was on Iwo Jima 17 days. Crazy!