'Linchpin of the Military History Corridor'

Article excerpt

The Freedom Museum and planned National Veterans Center near the nation's capital are "must" stops for visiting vets. And VFW Post 7589 in Manassas, Va., made it all possible.

"Freedom is very complicated," explained 81-year-old Doug Idlett, a Bataan Death March survivor. "It's not just about the Bill of Rights. It involves so many little things. It's almost impossible to explain to someone who hasn't lost everything," as he did for four years while a Japanese POW.

Veterans of 20th century wars paid a high price for the freedom, peace and unparalleled economic prosperity we enjoy today. After fulfilling their military obligations, they returned home and gradually helped transform America into a superpower.

"America is not an accident," said Vietnam veteran Chuck Colgan, Jr., who, two years ago, enlisted the support of VFW Post 7589 in building a museum "to recognize all those who paid the price of freedom."

"Pulling point" is how the former combat correspondent describes his current mission. He emphasizes the effort is "being driven by a small VFW post in Manassas, Va.," whose members have contributed countless hours and thousands of dollars to help the fledgling Freedom Museum take flight.

In fact, the museum's board of directors is composed almost entirely of VFW members.

According to Brad Bradshaw, then-- commander of the Post, members were behind the idea from the very beginning. "When Chuck approached us about the museum, I said `Where are we going to do it and how soon?"'

From January 1999 through December 2000, Post members devoted more than 6,000 volunteer hours to the museum. A great deal of that time was dedicated to a fund-raiser, the "Festival of Freedom. Of the 28 volunteers needed for this second annual event, held each August, 22 were VFW members. Some 20,000 spectators turned out for the three-day affair to admire WWII aircraft, tanks and jeeps and to learn more about the museum.

"This has been fabulous," Bradshaw said "It really feels good to be doing this."

'LIVING TIME CAPSULE'

Every war fought during the 20th century that involved American troops has its story told. All branches of the service are recognized, including the often-forgotten U.S. Coast Guard. The Merchant Marine is recognized, too. Women in the military aren't relegated to some obscure dusty corner; nor are the contributions of civilians, overlooked.

Museum exhibits and displays include contributions of the Civil Air Patrol, Cadet Nurse Corps, Red Cross, Women Air Service Corps Pilots, United Services Organization (USO) and the Cold War intelligence community.

"We use authentic combat art done by people who witnessed events, not illustrators who imagined it" said retired Col. H. Avery Chenoweth, Sr., a 42-year U.S. Marine Corps Reserve veteran.

Chenoweth is the man behind the impressive pictorial histories found in the museum. His personal art appears in exhibits -on Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf, where he covered Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm after being recalled to active duty in 1990. …