The Iowa Gold Star Military Museum is featuring a new exhibit about World War I on this Memorial Day weekend.
“One of the missions of this museum is to honor and recognize any Iowan who’s ever worn a uniform. There’s no distinction made between branch of service or rank. We don’t care if you’re a two-star general or a brand new buck private,” says Bob Holliday, chairman of the museum’s board of directors. “If you’re an Iowan, we want to recognize you and honor you.”
About 115,000 Iowans served during what was called “The Great War” and more than 3500 of them died. Holliday says today is set aside to honor the war dead.
“Memorial Day was born shortly after the Civil War. It was indeed first called Decoration Day,” Holliday says. “It’s a day set aside to remember those who have given their very lives to protect our freedoms and our very way of life. You have to stop and think what these people gave up so we can live the way we do today.”
The museum’s new exhibit focuses on “life in the trenches” in France during World War I. The Iowa Gold Star Military Museum opens today at 5 a.m. and closes a 1 p.m. It is located at Camp Dodge in Johnston, the home base for the Iowa National Guard. Holliday says the museum has grown from modest beginnings.
“It started with a mandate from the Iowa Legislature in 1986,” Holliday says. “It was located in the basement of the base chapel, a very small room.”
The Iowa Gold Star Military Museum is now a free-standing building that covers 28,000 square feet.