The Alaska Veterans Museum is focused on honoring our nation’s veterans and insuring that because of the sacrifices they made to defend America’s freedom, “They Shall Not Be Forgotten.” As President Calvin Coolidge said, “A nation which forgets its defenders, will itself be forgotten.”
The Museum began in 2001 with a dream. Some VFW Brothers and sisters and concerned citizens could see that our community was missing something. The rich military history in Alaska was being overlooked. There was no veterans museum. There was no place to hear the stories of Servicemen and Servicewomen, or learn of the military’s contributions to the growth of Alaska, or how Alaskans defended the United States. The idea for Alaska Veterans Museum was born.
Some of the museums earliest founders, Forest and Cathy Brooks, had helped to form a similar museum in Centralia then Chehalis, WA and were ready to help start one here. They, and others, began gathering historical artifacts; weapons, uniforms, photos, posters, models, dioramas, oral histories, and more.
AVM was awarded a business license and became a 501 (c) (3) non-profit corporation in 2002. We started advertising, marching in parades, supporting local community events. Board members briefed over 212 various community groups. Finally in the spring of 2008, we were given an amazing opportunity for our first public exhibit. Six months in the largest museum in Alaska, the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center. The exhibit, “Castner’s Cutthroats: Forgotten Heroes,” debuted with a panel discussion featuring the last three living Alaska Scouts, Lt Earl Acuff, Sgt Ed Walker, T5 (Corporal) Billy Buck, and author Jim Rearden. We also paid tribute to T5 (Corporal) Buck Delkettie who had passed away prior to our exhibit. Oral Histories from these fine men still play at the museum today. 19 months after our debut, our exhibit was finally taken down. When it was taken down, the Anchorage Museum’s Historian, Marilyn Knapp, said it was the most popular local exhibit the museum had ever had. She also said, “I miss my old friend there in the atrium – it was a great exhibit.”
We followed that success with more excellent exhibits. The Aleutian Tigers, (11th Fighter Squadron), at the Alaska Aviation Museum, as well as assisting with the 11thAir Force Warbirds exhibit and the USS Grunion exhibit, also at the Aviation Museum. The extensive Grunion exhibit featured photos and submarine artifacts, a large model of the submarine, a movie about finding her after 65 years and a Skype session with the skipper’s eldest son. At the Native Heritage Center we had an exhibit on the Alaska Territorial Guard (ATG) and Major Marvin “Muktuk” Marston, with many of his items on loan, entrusted to us by the Anchorage Museum. We also had displays on the Aleutian Campaign: A Forgotten War at the Chugiak-Eagle River Library and at the Loussac Library.
On April 17, 2011 we opened the doors to our 1,433 square foot storefront at the 4th AV Marketplace. Since our grand opening, we have welcomed over 1,700 visitors and we’re waiting to greet YOU!
We are now telling the stories we dreamed of telling. We continue, unwavering, with our mission; preserve the memory of veterans and of their sacrifices for America’s freedom, educate the community, and support veterans and active duty personnel. And so, we aid Boy Scouts & Girls Scouts earning Americanism badges. We have movie nights and books signings. We send historians into schools to educate kids. We send more Fan Mail to Troops than any other small organization in the United States. We dedicated a beautiful statue to the Alaska Territorial Guard on November 11th, 2011. He protectively stands guard in front of the museum. Most recently, we were part of the production, dedication and delivery of the Memorial on Attu Island. Our current Executive Director, Col. Suellyn Wright Novak, has been instrumental in the process and completion of these and other projects and is always on the lookout for more ways to get ‘er done.
Does our mission move you? We are volunteer staffed and run. We look for people with passion for history, for storytelling, for listening, for preservation, for education. We need people willing to be trained as docents to staff the museum. We need people with ideas, and time, and dedication, and the ability to see a plan through. We need shakers and movers. We need volunteers and board members with resources and connections and cold, hard, cash. We have so many ideas for growth, new ways to reach out and continue with our mission. New artifacts from all over the world are being donated more quickly than we can process them and we are busting out of our 1,433 square feet! We want our own building someday, and we need help getting there.
If you would like to contact us to learn more about how you can contribute or you want to learn more about or organization, please fill in the form below.