My wife and I have been to Branson, Missouri, several times and have seen many enjoyable shows and sights. On our most recent trip, a few years ago, we saw something special: the Veterans Memorial Museum. The museum doesn’t have the happy beat of Ozark music or the nostalgia of the 50s. It doesn’t have the history in Branson that “The Shepherd of the Hills” play and Silver Dollar City have. What the Veterans Memorial Museum does offer is a chance to reflect on the men and women of our nation who fought and died to give us the freedoms we enjoy today. Branson was a natural place to build such a museum because the town itself celebrates patriotism in many of the shows that are presented inits theaters.
To walk into the Veterans Museum is to leave the world of recreation and enter into a world where life and death decisions were made. It was a reminder not to take for granted the American way of life.
The Veterans Museum is the brainchild of Fred Hoppe, a well-known sculptor, who was inspired by the stories of war he heard from his father, Fred Hoppe, Sr., himself a World War II veteran.
The museum consists of ten halls that cover the wars and conflicts fought during the 20th century, beginning with World War I and progressing through Desert Storm and beyond. Featured in the exhibits are uniforms, equipment, artifacts, art objects, and thousands of memorabilia. A special room for many people is the so-called “booty room,” filled with souvenirs brought home by returning military personnel. As a veteran myself, I enjoyed the progress that our armed forces have made over the years, and remembered my own days in the Army.
The most impressive display in the museum is a bronze sculpture over 70 feet long and weighing 15 tons which features 50 life-sized soldiers storming a beach. Each soldier was modeled after an actual soldier, one from each of the 50 states. Fred Hoppe, Sr. was the model for the soldier leading the charge.
Perhaps just as impressive as the bronze sculpture are the memorial walls on which are listed the names of the men and women who were killed in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, and the more recent conflicts of the 20th Century.
As my wife and I walked through the museum, I had one special mission: to find my Uncle Harlan’s name. Harlan, my father’s brother, was killed in Italy during World War II. If I ever met him, I don’t remember him. I was born in 1940 and he was dead before I was aware of many of my relatives. Some of the family members think he may have been one of the first Americans to die in Italy. As I examined the wall, I spotted his name. It was a special moment, and made our visit to the museum especially memorable.
The Veterans Memorial Museum is located at 1250 West 76 Country Music Blvd., Branson, MO 65616.
Source: The opening page of the website below has a great picture of the sculpture of the 50 soldiers storming the beach as well as a wide variety of information about the museum, its exhibit, and its founder.