By Donna Thornton/News Editor
The Gadsden Museum of Art’s “I Remember” exhibit is a perfectly timed offering for the people of Etowah County.
Timed for the Veterans Day holiday, the exhibit also comes when Etowah County has been following the progress of two local soldiers injured in Afghanistan, and has just celebrated the first visit home by one of those young men.
“I Remember” not only offers hundreds of items from almost every conflict since the Civil War involving American soldiers, according to museum volunteer John Graham, who helped organize the exhibit. It shares the collections, and through them the stories, of people from Etowah County who served during the conflicts.
Graham said many local families donated items or have loaned items to the museum preserved from long-ago wars or more recent ones.
Graham’s family was one of those: a display shows artifacts from his ancestors service in the Civil War and subsequent wars, including a helmet belonging to his son, currently serving in the military.
All the items in the exhibit are notable. Some Graham points out include a gun collection loaned by Bill Wilson. It includes a Japanese rifle, obviously acquired early in the war, Graham said.
The rifle has a chrysanthemum — a symbol of the Japanese emperor — etched on it. As the war progressed, he said, Japanese soldiers would scraped the chrysanthemum off in case they were captured and had to surrender their weapons.
“They didn’t want to disgrace the emperor,” Graham said.
Some people who had artifacts passed down through their families didn’t really know what they had, Graham said, and as he’s something of a historian, he could help identify the items.
There were surprises as they catalogued and arranged items for the display, according to Graham. When he was examining a World War II helmet he said he pulled the helmet’s liner out and discovered the names of cities or battle sites had been written on the liner. No one knew about it, Graham said, until it was discovered at the museum.
Another exhibit features letters written to Etowah County soldier Ricky Underwood while he served in Vietnam. The authors were members of Mrs. Underwood’s 2nd grade class at C.A. Donehoo Elementary School in 1972. Underwood kept the letters and copies of them are on display at the museum.
“I Remember” will be on display until Nov. 17. Museum hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 4-8 p.m. on First Friday.