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HARRISON – The Veterans Display at the Harrison Fairground will feature two special displays during Fair Week this year. This year the display will be honoring the American Legion’s 100th anniversary. Created in 1919, the Legion has been a welcoming organization which serves not only veterans and their families, but also the nation, the state and the communities within which they reside.
The Legion’s mission is well-described in the commentary which accompanies an art piece “Legacy and Vision” by Matt Hall which is part of the Veterans Display honoring the anniversary. It reads: “A World War I doughboy and a 21st century fighter in the Global War on Terrorism see in each other’s eyes their common bond, a gaze that traverses a century. This bond would come to define The American Legion, founded in 1919, and continues to connect all who have served the U.S. Armed Forces during times of war, through a continuous lineage of individual obligation to community, state and nation, for God and country, regardless of war era.”
Joe Bradley, historian and Legion Post 404 Honor Guard member, is a virtual walking encyclopedia of nearly every aspect of this nation’s military history. His knowledge of the Legion is much the same, and he has put a great deal of thought and effort into this year’s display: its layout, content and intended gift to the community. As always, Dick Vershave, past Honor Guard commander, also has invested many of his own hours into the refurbishing of the display for this year – including floor painting after the past winter’s water damage. Vershave has emphasized the importance of rearranging the historical display, giving visitors a new perspective and perhaps an awareness of items previously overlooked.
Bradley takes great pleasure in pointing out the many details which are specific to the American Legion and its 100-year path through history, including the Legion’s early-on requirement that members purchase and wear a specially designed dark blue Legion uniform. World War I veterans were allowed to wear their military uniforms – if they still fit – otherwise, it was the new uniform for them. A comical cartoon drawing in the display illustrates the doughboy who just couldn’t make it fit.
The second special feature of this year’s Veterans Display will be a section dedicated to Rosie the Riveter and all the Rosies who served the war effort on the home front, regardless of familial origin or gender. The source for essentially all the Rosie memorabilia is Maye Tessner-Rood, who has used the American “can do” spirit embodied in the Rosie image to successfully focus the Veterans Freedom Park statue fundraising efforts.
To build the Rosie the Riveter display, Tessner-Rood has assembled many of the items she has collected since the Rosie Challenge first began in support of the statue project. Also included are items which have been sent to or given to her by people who have seized on the opportunity to entrust their special mementos to someone they know will honor and protect them. The plan is for this display to have a live “Rosie” on hand to answer questions, as well as to loop an audio clip recorded in Ypsilanti, Michigan, during the 2017 Guinness World Record gathering of 3,755 Rosies from 18 states and Ontario.
The Veterans Display is an adventure in itself: an opportunity to walk alongside real people from the community’s and country’s past as they served their nation. Adding the Rosie the Riveter and American Legion’s 100th Year features will make this year’s museum trip all the more informative and rewarding.