I am still somewhat surprised and sometime saddened by the military artifacts people will give to us. Sometime, it is because they really appreciate what Historic Military Impressions does and in those cases we are honored to become the keepers of them. Most of the time it is because the family does not know what to do with it and we are a better choice than goodwill or the trash. In these cases I ask if there is anyone in the family who would want the items and ask that they would take them back until they consider a family member, reminding them that the items are part of their family history.
I do understand that there are times that there is no one left to take care of the artifacts or the sight of them is very painful for the family and giving them to us is closure and part of the healing process. Having said that it is my deepest desire that in almost all cases the military artifacts stay in the family because I have met many younger Americans that would kill to have their great-grandfather’s military uniform, (I am one of them,) but they are gone, never to be seen again in most cases.
To my fellow veterans, I believe you, in most cases, would wish your military items would stay in your family. So here are two things you should consider.
- You need to document– what the items are, where they came from, how they came into your possession and why you kept them. The history of the items is impartment. It is your history and part of your family history. This documentation will not only keep you story alive for generations to come, it many also keep the story of the men and women who served with you who many not have made it home alive.
- You need to talk. Too often I here my dad was a veterans but I do not know anything about his time in service, he never talked about it. Talking is part of healing. I saw this with my own grandfather who fought the Japanese in World War Two. It was close to the end of his life; only he and I served but that day I could see the weight of that service lift off him. Share you service, good and bad; too often we tell the good stories and we deprive our youth of knowledge that could help them make better decisions when they are running things. You also need to let them know what your wishes are with your military artifacts.
Doing these two things may not prevent your artifacts of service from leaving the family. However if they do, and they end up with us, this will help us to share you story over time. If they end up elsewhere these two steps will help your family make a better decision on what to do with what they have.
Historic Military Impressions has just over 38,000 items in our collection; a veteran or their family donated 32 percent of those items for us to do our exhibits. These items will never be sold, but the items I wish I had in the collection are my grandfather’s uniforms. If you read some of m earlier articles, you know my first item was a German helmet he gave me. This is my most special item that started it all. What I would not do for his uniforms and other items from WWII. That history is lost to me. I share this because there is or will be someone who will long for you history of military service; please do not let it be lost to them.