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"Memories Must Be Fed"
Without nourishment, they wither and fade into a vague,
uncelebrated, unappreciated thing we call "The Past."
Certain memories are particularly
deserving of continued feeding and appreciation. Foremost are the memories of
those men and women whom fate thrust into armed struggle on our
The Michigan's Own Military and Space
Museumexists to nurture the memories of people
from Michigan farms, offices and factories who heeded the summons to military
service during America's seven foreign wars; from the Spanish-American War to
the War on Terrorism. Michigan's Own is unique in the
United States in that it is the only repository devoted to the wartime
experiences of one state's people. The museum includes a section devoted to
Medal of Honor recipients and this collection includes more Medals of Honor than
any other museum in the United States.
However, it is not a museum of
war, nor an archive dedicated to the strategies or the killing machinery of
battle. It is instead, a shrine to ordinary lives caught up in - sometimes ended
by - the extraordinary experience of war. It is also an eloquent statement about
the passing of time, and the debt subsequent generations owe to those who
preceded them to preserve our Freedoms.
The museum, located in
Frankenmuth, Michigan, holds over 400 exhibits, each devoted to a Michigan
soldier, sailor, or airman. Youthful faces peer at a visitor from photographs on
the walls and display cases, some accompanied by pictures of the frail old men
the young soldiers became. Other faces - of those who fell - are frozen
exclusively and forever in young adulthood.
A powerful sensation of
bygone times, distant places and desperate struggles clings to the fabric of the
old uniforms on display. The garments, the sundry accessories of brass and
leather the soldiers used, the battle souvenirs and citations they received -
all leave visitors pondering the men and women more than the war. The artifacts
communicate a sense of connection to the soldier: that our present freedom and
well being are attributable to these men and women.
Visitors wonder if
the soldiers were able to do what they did because somewhere in their souls they
understood they were doing it for future generations.
The displays at Michigan's
Own reflect American military adventures and tragedies of the last
century through the personal histories of people who, in the inexorable press of
day-to-day life, might have otherwise been
Michigan's Own focuses not just on
the past or on combat, however. The museum honors the peacetime bravery of
Michigan astronauts, including Commander Roger Chaffee of Grand Rapids, who died
in the Apollo 1 launch-pad fire of January 27, 1967.
Most of the
artifacts were diligently researched and acquired by museum director Stanley
Bozich. They are weighty with the emotion of those who contributed them. Many a
widow saddened to think the remnants of her husband's military service might end
up ignored in an attic after her death, have entrusted them to
Michigan's Own, confident they would be preserved and
honored. The museum's collection is rooted in the cherished memories of hundreds
of Michigan families.
In 1985, eight months before his death at 93, Henry
Duff of Troy, Michigan, was reminiscing about his experiences in northern Russia
as one of the 'Polar Bears'. The troop movements and outcomes of battles nearly
70 years in the past flickered in his memory, while the faces of the men he
fought alongside still burned brightly. Mr. Duff said, "More than the deed,
I remember the people." His words could stand as a motto for
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