These Walls: Military History Museum, Tulsa

Article excerpt

Tulsa's Military History Museum drew its birth from an ouster.

It all started in 2001, when John McGuiness invited retired U.S. Air Force Col. Robert W. Powell to Tulsa's Memorial High School to oversee the Veteran's Day flag changing. Recognizing the school was not fulfilling its 1962 dedication to honor American war veterans, then-Principal McGuiness asked Powell to help him change that by decorating the school's conference room with suitable artifacts and items.

Powell treasured the opportunity, since it extended a mission he'd held for more than a decade. In 1989 former Tulsa Mayor Susan Savage chose Powell to form a nonprofit honoring the 50th anniversary of World War II. Through that he brought 27 major veterans reunions to the Tulsa area, boosting not only knowledge of their experiences, but also the Tulsa economy.

For five years Powell maintained Memorial's veteran displays and worked with its 1,500 students. Having served during WWII, the Berlin airlift and the Korean War, he enjoyed instilling some sense of value for which America's soldiers endured and fought.

In 2006 a high school renovation forced Powell to remove his collection. He contemplated storing the works, but Memorial graduate Shirley Bennett offered some 2,500 square feet of office space in a building owned by her father, former geologist Jimmy Swindler. So in July 2006, the Military History Museum opened at 6953 S. 66th East Ave., sharing a roof with Swindler.

It's arguably one of Oklahoma's least-visited museum, simply because Powell and his volunteers do not advertise much, with its primary operating hours just Tuesday through Thursday. …

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