Veterans Voices: Miami Valley Military History Museum staffed exclusively by veterans

Veterans Voices

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – For more than a decade, the Miami Valley Military History Museum has showcased artifacts from the defining moments in our nation’s history.

The museum is located on the VA campus but is independent of the VA; the only funding they receive is from private donations. Thousands of artifacts help bring history to life, from every era and every branch of service.

Leading the way is a team of dedicated veteran volunteers, who are eager to show you why that rich history is so important. 

Catherine Beers-Conrad, the Public Affairs Officer, explains, “Daddy was killed in 1969.”  

The Miami Valley Military History Museum is personal for Beers-Conrad, an Air Force veteran and gold star daughter, but she hopes it becomes personal for anyone who walks through the doors. “We’re obligated to listen to each other, to support each other, in any way that’s needed.”  

Many of the museum’s 15,000 artifacts are uniforms, from every era, each with a story that deserves to be heard. 

Mark Conrad is the President and Curator of the museum, and an Air Force veteran. He says, “We’ve had family members tell us that Dad or Grandpa never talked about the war. But when he sees something that he used or wore or that his buddies did, it really opens a lot of them up and they start sharing those memories.”  

Veterans volunteer at the museum for a variety of reasons: some are eager to teach; some need the connection to others like them. Army veteran Aaron Anderson deployed to Iraq shortly after 9/11. His eventual transition to civilian life wasn’t easy, but the museum helps him connect with others with similar experiences. One of Aaron’s service uniforms hangs in the museum, but it’s not his favorite display: Vietnam veterans have his highest respect. “I attribute a lot of the successes we have in current conflicts to the Vietnam Veterans. We learned those lessons.”  

John Hoelscher is one of those Vietnam-era veterans. He didn’t serve in country, but that didn’t matter to the people who mistreated him when he returned. “Baby killer and the whole nine yards. I’m sorry. It hurts. But I’m glad the kids today are thought of better than we were.” 

The mission to teach and grow continues at the Miami Valley Military History Museum. Beers-Conrad says, “We know whose shoulders we stand on, all of us.” 

If you’d like to help, museum curator Mark Conrad says the museum is always on the lookout for military vehicles to display, and older artifacts from the WWI and WWII eras. But what Cathy Beers-Conrad says they need most is volunteers: civilians and veterans are welcome. 

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