DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — The Miami Valley Military History Museum on the Dayton VA’s campus held its annual Memorial Day open house Monday.

“It’s better than any history book,” says Cathy I. Beers-Conrad, the Public Affairs Officer for the Miami Valley Military History Museum. “We are up close and personal. You can just reach out and touch.”

The museum offers a 2,300 square-foot real-life history lesson.

“It’s wow! This is what I wore. This is what I carried,” says Beers-Conrad.

There’s no telling what visitors will find.

“We have a coconut from WWII,” describes Beers-Conrad. “And we have a WWII slinky.”

Open since 2007 and outgrowing the space, the museum isn’t just for history buffs.

“We have a lot of people who visit their loved ones in the National Cemetery here and this is where they come afterwards,” says Beers-Conrad.

There are more than 5,000 artifacts in the museum, and about 75% of them are of the fallen.

“Daddy’s our hero. He’s why my brother and I went into the service,” states Beers-Conrad. “He was killed on a second voluntary tour in Vietnam. He was 34 years old, close to retirement.”

Memorabilia is donated by those who want to share their story.

“Something will walk through the door almost every day,” says Beers-Conrad.

Giving the artifacts a respectful home, the museum is helping keep our nation’s history alive.

“For us it’s just an honor that we are entrusted with people’s lives to tell their story,” says Beers-Conrad. “To see little kids with their parents or grandparents, their faces just light up. They just can’t hear enough about– it’s like wow, and it’s like you really did this? I think that is my favorite reaction of all is just watching the kids.”

The museum is looking to move to a bigger space in Fairborn by the end of the year.

The museum is open Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and is always in need of volunteers.