By: Yvonne Dempsey
North Alabama is visited by countless tourists each year, and one of the most visited attractions is our Alabama Veterans Museum and Archives. August 2018 marks the 20th anniversary of the signing of the articles of incorporation giving birth to the museum, which has become a beloved asset to Athens and Limestone County.
Containing thousands of artifacts from the Revolutionary War to the present day and all branches of the service, the museum holds the stories and memories of local heroes and those on the homefront. Local veterans and their loved ones have donated precious, irreplaceable items to our museum in hopes that they will be preserved for generations to come. The role of our museum is to honor all the men and women who served and to educate the public. At our museum, the past is here for the future. Although we are still a young nation, we have seen and endured so much during our 200 years; we must remember and never forget our nation’s birth and its growing pains. Our museum holds our history – the good, the bad, and the ugly; the sacrifices; the struggles; the triumphs. It’s real and it’s all here for everyone to experience.
Housed in a 100-year-old L&N Freight Depot, the museum was the brainchild of the late Kenneth David, who served as the Limestone County Veteran Service Officer. After collecting artifacts for an exhibit in 1995 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II, he was still left with artifacts that contributors no longer wanted. Ken felt that a permanent display was needed and with other veterans, began working on what is now our veterans museum. Donations of articles and money started pouring in. The support from area citizens was overwhelming and it still is. Over the years, our museum has grown and has actually outgrown the building. Plans are underway for an expansion that will allow us to better display and preserve all of the artifacts currently in the museum, as well as the extensive collections currently in storage.
We are always looking for ways to honor our veterans, understand society during their times, and remember events that impacted the world. Various fundraisers, donations, and other events keep our museum alive and help us to serve the public. Coffee Call is one of our museum’s regular events held at 8:00 a.m. on the first Saturday of each month. It is a free breakfast for veterans, their families, and friends. This is sponsored by local businesses and individuals, with usually around 100-150 attendees.
We hold an annual Memorial Day event honoring and remembering all of the deceased veteran. Other events and fundraisers are scheduled throughout the year. We would like to thank everyone who bought tickets for “A Night to Celebrate,” a fundraiser for our museum featuring comedy magician Denny Corby on July 28.
Another memorable event will be held on Sunday, August 19, at 2:00 p.m. Please join us at the Athens Senior Center for a celebration of our museum’s anniversary. The entertaining show will include comedy skits, music, and stories centered around our museum, its artifacts, and local veterans. You’ll see familiar faces and hometown celebrities in a program reminiscent of classic TV comedy/variety shows. A limited number of tickets are on sale at the museum – $10 for adults and $5 for kids 12-under – and at the door. For information, call the museum at 256-771-7578. We look forward to seeing you there, and we thank you for your continuing support.
By: Yvonne Dempsey
Limestone Veterans Burial Detail member and Alabama Veterans Museum volunteer