A new photo exhibit at the Gold Star Military Museum at Camp Dodge in Johnston features notable Iowa veterans. Other exhibits remember fallen heroes — but this new one honors the living. Bob Holliday is Board Chairman of the Gold Star Museum, and says 40 Iowans have been photographed, each holding a picture from their younger days in the military.
“An awful lot of people don’t know that these folks are veterans so the concept is wait a minute, this is Governor Branstad he was an MP, and look at him standing in that uniform,” Holliday says. Former Governor Robert Ray was the first veteran photographed, State Climatologist Elwynn Taylor was the last.
Those inbetween included bankers and C.E.O.’s, an opera singer and a three journalists. Cesar Smith had a career at Principal, after a career in the Army. He survived two tours of duty in Vietnam.
“It’s a little emotional for me, as you know we as veterans of the Vietnam War we weren’t accepted, I mean there’s a lot of negative, it was very painful, and so the fact that anyone from the Vietnam War is being acknowledged I think is a good thing,” Smith says.
Former Grandview photography professor Bill Schaefer came up with the idea for the project. Last year, every World War Two survivor in Clarke County posed for him, and that exhibit blossomed into the notable Iowans collection. He’s volunteering his time, for two reasons.
“One of them would be appreciation for the military in our society. I’m not a militarist, I don’t think war is good but we have to have a military,” Schaefer explains. “I’m really photographing this for the future for 50, a hundred, 200 years that will be put somewhere that people can access, so I see it as a history project.”
Schaefer’s favorite veteran is 106 year old Floyd Teske who lives at the Veterans home in Marshalltown. Developer Bill Knapp is featured; the man who donated land for the Iowa Veterans Cemetery. So is the woman who manages the cemetery — Veterans Affairs Director Jodi Tymeson.
She says, “When I enlisted in 1974, because I was a female, I remember them giving me the choice of being a medic or a clerk typist.” Tymeson went on to become the Iowa National Guard’s first woman Brigadier General. Nearly 700,000 Iowans have served in wartime; many more during peacetime.
For this exhibit, Gold Star Chairman Bob Holliday says heroism doesn’t matter — the important thing is they are all veterans. Admission to the Gold Star Museum is free.