For years, the Sumner Historical Society has collected countless U.S. Armed Forces items and documents, some dating all the way back to World War I.
Vicki Connor, curator of Sumner’s Ryan House Museum, said that people used to stop by all the time and drop off things they found in their closet.
“It took me 20 years to go through the entire (museum),” she said. “Not everything was labeled.”
Now, the Sumner Historical Society and the Sumner Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) are combining forces to create a display for these items so that the public can view them and remember their stories.
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The Military Memories Campaign will put military mementos such as photos, uniforms, service awards, medals, newspaper clippings and letters on display at the Victory Post 3070 on 1750 Willow Street in Sumner.
Currently, the VFW’s building is being renovated and modernized. Renovations are expected to be completed this December, and when they are, there will be plenty of open wall space to decorate.
“The (campaign) is about educating people that there’s a place they can put information about their relatives and themselves where it can be cared for respectfully,” said Mike Connor, vice commander of the Sumner VFW.
The campaign was created so that objects that are passed down through families don’t lose their histories and stories.
“We’d like to capture that (history) and bring it back into our world,” Connor said. “Today a lot of people haven’t been around the military and they don’t know what (items) they’re looking at.”
Already, the campaign has begun unearthing some antiques from World War I and II.
Ron Scholz, a member of the VFW, brought forward his father’s old U.S.Navy uniform from World War II.
His father, Kenneth Scholz, worked on a supply ship. He used to be a farmer and passed away in 1977, when Ron was 29.
“He never got that detailed into what he did,” said Ron, 69. “I found the uniform in the attic. It was passed down and nobody really knew what to do with it.”
The (campaign) is about educating people that there’s a place they can put information about their relatives and themselves where it can be cared for respectfully.
Mike Connor, vice commander of the Sumner VFW
There are many veterans who “generally don’t talk about” their experiences serving, Connor said.
“Some people don’t know their relatives have been in the service,” he said. “Their families are as surprised as anyone else.”
Other items from World War II that the campaign collected includes a small, green-colored first aid kit and a gas mask.
Vicki Connor, who wrote a story about gas masks and women in the military during World War II, said the gas mask wouldn’t have protected the soldiers who wore them.
“It wouldn’t have protected anyone from anything,” she said.
A helmet and a belt from World War I are part of the stash, as well as leg coverings that were meant to keep out brush, bugs and water.
If Vicki Connor wants to learn more about an item, sometimes she’ll take it down to Joint Base Lewis-McChord. She’s not sure about the history of a military canteen, bowl and food-warmer kit that she collected for the campaign.
“It’s like being a private detective,” Vicki said. “I’m always finding stuff and I have to figure out where it came from.”
Locals are welcome to bring their findings to the Ryan House Museum, which is currently open from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
Items can also be donated, photographed or copied at the VFW Dog Days of August event from 11 a.m. to noon on Sunday (Aug. 28) at the VFW Victory Post 3070 on Willow Street.
The members of the VFW want to capture the stories behind the local heroes who served to protect the country, Mike Connor said.
“I think it’s a good (idea),” said Scholz about the campaign. “Those people stepped forward to protect our life and liberty.”