Veterans Museum sees success with open house

PARKERSBURG – For a second year, the Veterans Museum of the Mid-Ohio Valley held an open house Saturday as part of the annual “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day” national day of recognition.

Gary Farris, director of the veterans museum and a Vietnam veteran, said the local ceremony was held in conjunction with the national day of recognition, which has been marked on March 30 for the last two years locally and across the country.

He described Saturday’s turnout as “phenomenal,” with many people stopping by to visit the museum during the morning and afternoon of the open house.

“They are trying to make it a national holiday, but a lot of the states recognize it,” Farris said of “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day.” “We don’t need the states’ approval, we recognize our veterans everyday.”

Saturday’s open house was designed to bring in Vietnam veterans and members of the public to the museum to see the displays and to meet each other.

“We want the public to come in and shake their hand and thank them for their service. Forty years ago, they didn’t get a ‘thank you,’ they didn’t get anything,” he said.

As a Vietnam veteran himself, Farris believes the day of recognition is an important way to show those veterans that their service and sacrifice is appreciated.

“I think it’s great, I think it’s about time,” he said of the recognition. “I tell everybody that when you see a man with a veteran’s hat on – especially a Vietnam veteran – walk up and shake his hand and say ‘Welcome home.’ We never got a welcome home and it’s time we did,” he said.

Farris said attitudes have been changing and moving in a positive direction in recent years and Vietnam veterans are being recognized more and more for their service and contributions.

Rod King, of Vienna, served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. He attended Saturday’s program at the veterans museum and hoped the day would see a good turnout overall. He was glad to see the “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day” program being held in Parkersburg.

“We didn’t get much respect when we came home,” King said of the Vietnam era, although that has changed in recent years.

“People have come to appreciate us more, maybe because of the other wars that have been going on since then,” he said.

Vienna resident Leroy Flanary was also among those visiting the museum Saturday and viewing the exhibits, having served with the U.S. Army in Vietnam. He was out of town during last year’s March 30 program and was getting ready to leave again this past weekend, but wanted to make sure he stopped at the museum.

“I think it’s real nice. I think Vietnam veterans were put on the bottom of the list for a long time,” he said of Saturday’s program and its goals.

Like others, Flanary said people are now more appreciative of the service of Vietnam veterans.

“It’s changed a whole lot since we came back,” he said.

For the veterans museum itself, Farris said he and other volunteers associated with the program are continuing to work to support and maintain the operations of the facility at 1829 Seventh St. in Parkersburg. The museum has received many donations of items for display over the years, although it currently only has space to display about one-fifth of what has been donated, he said.