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In Honor of those who served

October 22, 1997

By TERI JOHNSON

Staff Writer

The military museum at Morris Frock American Legion Post 42 commands your attention from the moment you walk in the door.

The museum in the basement of the post home at 405 Northern Ave. in Hagerstown is a treasure trove of memorabilia from all branches of the service.

Read the bold headline "War! Oahu Bombed by Japanese Planes," close your eyes, and it's not hard to imagine you're getting the first news about Pearl Harbor on Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941.

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Touch a sleeve on a uniform jacket, and wrap yourself in the dreams and pride of a young soldier.

Kevin Poole, assistant curator, says the museum makes him feel very close to his country.

"It's like having a Memorial Day 365 days a year," Poole says.

The museum was created through the dedication of curator Ivan Raymond "Pete" Young Jr., who began working on it about 15 years ago. Young, 66, served with the U.S. Army for 21 years in Germany and Vietnam.

The museum showcases personal items, weapons and mementos from World War I through the Gulf War. The collection begins with World War I because the American Legion was started in 1919 by veterans of that war, Young says.

In a county so rich in Civil War history, the museum is meaningful because it honors veterans of other wars, Poole says.

"It's one of Washington County's best-kept secrets," Poole says.

The museum is open some holidays and by appointment. In honor of Veterans Day, it will be open Saturday, Nov. 8, from 9 to 5 p.m.; Sunday, Nov. 9, from noon to 6 p.m. and Monday, Nov. 10, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tours are led by Young, Poole or other members of the museum board.

Some items have been donated, some are on loan and the rest are from Young's personal collection. Young says he always is looking for additions to the museum, and he scours yard sales, gun shows and antique shops.

When Poole became associated with the museum about five years ago, Young told him many people just let their military items rust in the garage. Poole went home and brought back some things for the museum, including a rifle, medals and hand grenades.

Young and Poole - both past commanders of the post who live in Hagerstown - keep everything shipshape.

"I never thought I'd get to the point in my life when I'd be taking a dust rag over a machine gun," says Poole, 49, an Army veteran who served in Germany from 1967 to 1969.

Young knows the location of every piece in the collection, Poole says.

"When he brings a new item, I feel like a small child. He wants me to go find it," Poole says.

Visitors don't have to search to discover thousands of articles - so many that Young has lost count. The display cases are filled with colorful patches and medals, testimonies to patriotism and spirit that time can't tarnish.

Other items include a Browning automatic rifle, a bazooka rocket launcher, a British 303 Vickers machine gun and a gas mask for a horse. Poole notes that the weapons in the collection are safe because they have been modified so they don't work.

There also are military rations, including a canned chocolate nut roll that World War II veterans may recall.

"They made that stuff to last," Young says.

The museum also stockpiles a powerful arsenal of memories, and it has brought a tear to the eye of more than one veteran, Young says.

"I see them stand and look at one picture for a while, and you know that they've been there and are remembering their experiences," Young says.

The idea isn't to glorify war, but to offer a glimpse into the lives of those who served, Poole says. Veterans Day is a good time to reflect on their contributions, he says.

"For every freedom you have, there's someone that never will come home again," Poole says.

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