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NEWS | July 12, 2021

Veterans museum reopens in new facility, preserves history of local veterans

By Michelle Gordon U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command

U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command Commander Maj. Gen. Todd Royar participated in the grand reopening of the Alabama Veterans Museum & Archives July 1 in Athens, Alabama.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, as well as other state and local officials, also attended the ceremony which celebrated the new location of the museum in a much larger venue.

During his remarks, Royar spoke about the role museums play in teaching and preserving the nation’s history. He quoted President Theodore Roosevelt, “’The more you know about the past, the better prepared you are for the future.’”

Royar said Alabama leadership is absolutely preparing for the future by investing in the veterans museum and expanding its footprint.

“That preparation doesn’t happen by accident,” he said. “It happens because folks care about it; it happens because they planned it. This facility, this museum, these sets of archives are what makes a difference. And if you want to teach about the past, if you want to teach about history, you have to have a means to do it. You have to have a way to tell the story.”

Museum Director Sandy Thompson, a veteran herself, retired from the Air Force in 2007 after 22 years on active duty. She said she enjoys teaching younger generations about service and sacrifice through the displays in the museum.

Thompson said all the artifacts in the museum were donated and telling the stories of those family heirlooms is what motivates her daily.

“Every one of these artifacts were actually used in the military,” she said. “We didn’t buy anything. All of these artifacts have seen action, and most of them come in with a story. We try to have the family members write the story down to preserve it.”

Nearly 500 people attended the ceremony, most of whom were veterans. Royar thanked them for supporting the museum and for their service.

“Today in Alabama there are more than 27,000 individuals who currently serve,” he said. “But there are about 370,000 veterans and it is in your footsteps that we walk.”

The Alabama Veterans Museum & Archives is open Monday-Saturday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m., and there is no charge to visit. It is located at 100 Pryor Street West in Athens, Alabama.