Military Displays Keep History Alive
Bill McNamara, West Point Class of 1960, has made it his duty to honor our country’s battles by curating exhibits of military material and mementoes in five cabinets around PVE.
“For me it is a labor of love,” he says. “I love living my twilight years surrounded by the patriots that we are. I know of no other Life Plan Community that has a display like ours. I call my effort a living time capsule that is visible, not buried.”
PVE residents — including two polar explorers, two former prisoners of war, and nurses in the armed services — have donated artifacts from their experiences. Others have loaned family heirlooms from World War I to Desert Storm.
“I started on the Wall of Remembrance committee,” McNamara explains. “But I did not feel the plaques told the whole story. I wanted to know about the events they commemorated. I was determined to not let our history pass us by.”
He now serves on the Patriotic Committee which procured funding from the Resident Council to purchase the glass-fronted, five-tiered display cases.
The first three cabinets are in the scooter room opposite the Main Dining Room. Pencil sketches of life inside the Hanoi Hilton, as well as cups, matches and toothpaste issued to the captives are featured in Cabinet One. A highlight of Cabinet Two is the involvement of a resident’s father-in-law as a member of the West Point Class of 1915, known as “The Class the Stars Fell On” since 36 percent of its graduates became generals. It also features memorabilia from those who served in Korea and Vietnam. Cabinet Three depicts World War II through pictures, medals and letters from the battle fronts.
Cabinets Four and Five focus on residents of Quail Creek and Laurel Creek and so they are in those locations so residents’ visiting family members may better appreciate their service. Also, in Cabinet Four is a description of PVE’s Chief Nurse by virtue of her rank and it is to honor all our many nurses here.
“I think our most historical display would be that of our 49th star lag and the story behind the 50th,” McNamara says. “My father was Quartermaster General of the Army and part of his duties was the design and acquisition of both flags that he then presented to President Eisenhower within six months of each other as we welcomed Alaska and then Hawaii into our Union in 1959.”
For residents who cannot access the exhibits, McNamara has provided video tours. View the museum introduction to learn why the museum exists and how he became involved and then learn more about the contents and artifacts held in cabinets one, two, three, four and five.
“If you have conversations with some of the people showcased here, I hope this information will give you the ammunition to ask them what happened,” McNamara says.
As for residents who might be future donors, he added the challenge, “What’s in your closet?”
Rada Rama from the Maintenance team donated and installed the lighting for the cabinets and team members PJ Galang, Destiny Saelee and Priscilla Bagalay catalogued the inventory.