The Iowa National Guard’s military museum turned 20 this year and officials have plans to expand the facility. Retired Colonel Russell Bierl is director of the Iowa Gold Star Military Museum. “The Gold Star Museum is dedicated to depicting the military service of all Iowans who served their country since Iowa became a state in 1846,” Bierl says. Since the Mexican War, through the Civil War, both World Wars and other conflicts all the way through the War on Terror, over 647-thousand Iowans have served in the U.S. military. A few of the names of those soldiers are engraved in bricks that are now in a wooden frame that stands inside the museum’s main entrance. The bricks, purchased by families or friends in honor of a soldier, will be moved soon. There’ll be a “Hall of Honor” in the new addition, the inscribed bricks will be inlaid in the wall. One of the bricks to be moved has a special significance for Bierl. Bierl bought a brick for his father, Virgil, who was from Algona, Iowa, and served in Europe during World War II. Bierl says they’re raising private donations and seeking government grants to hopefully double the size of the museum, expanding what the public can see and better protecting the artifacts and records in the museum’s collection. “It’s a lot of fun to track the lineage of people and track the service of Iowans and see how history is portrayed,” Bierl says. Bierl donated an item from his dress uniform to the museum’s collection. He bought his “field grade officer’s hat” in 1980, and the price tag is still in it. Bierl reached the rank of colonel, but he was a major when he bought the hat and the hat’s bill is adorned with gold braid that Bierl says officers call “scrambled eggs.” The price tag inside reads $69. “It was an expensive item,” Bierl says. If you’d like to purchase a brick in honor of an Iowa soldier, call 515-252-4531. Each brick costs $150, and you can arrange to pay in three, $50 installments.
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