Veterans Day has come and gone earlier in November, However, in Branson, Missouri, veterans are recognized and honored each day of the year in the entertainment city’s theatres, theme parks, and at the Veterans Memorial Museum. Many groups from various branches of our military—and different companies, units, and platoons—make Branson a destination for their reunions. The Veterans Task Force recognizes the Veterans Memorial Museum as one of the greatest tributes ever completed to honor America’s veterans.
Fred Hoppe, internationally recognized bronze sculptor, dreamed of a memorial museum to honor military men and women in the wars of the 20th Century. Designing, funding, and building his vision in Branson, Missouri, Hoppe collected and wrote scripts for over 2000 rare military artifacts housed in the 18,000 square foot museum. Hoppe’s inspiration came from stories and sacrifices he heard from his father, Fred Hoppe, Sr, and the men who fought beside him in some of the bloodiest battles of World War II. Fred Hoppe, Sr. is honored with a mural and a special exhibit depicting his heroic rescue of a wounded fellow soldier.
In ten halls, sculptures, murals, historical artifacts, objects d’art, and authentic memorabilia create powerful images depicting different wars and conflicts. The stories of ordinary men and women illustrate the human and personal cost of America’s freedom. A walk through the museum begins in the World War I Hall, and then progress through World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, and the more recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Each hall features thousands of pieces of authentic memorabilia honoring all branches of the service, major battlefronts, campaigns, and industrial defense. The names of the men and women killed in action in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, and other recent conflicts of the 20th Century are displayed on the walls of the halls.
Reading the stories of individuals who fought for our freedom on my first visit to the museum, I felt gratitude for their incredible sacrifices and bravery. The collection of wartime exhibits covering the heights and depths of human experience humbled me, a person who has never personally experienced a dad, a brother, or a spouse going away to war. I viewed the museum through the prism of history. I can only imagine how vivid and overwhelming memories return to those who lived through the wars of the 20th Century.
The world’s largest war memorial bronze sculpture, measuring over 70 feet long and weighing 15-tons, centers the museum. Featuring life-size statues storming a beach, the figures were modeled after a particular combat soldier from each of the 50 states. Faces on the men are recognizable to those who knew them. The sculpture is surrounded by over 400,000 names of American servicemen and women killed during WWII.
Open seven days a week, 8:00 am to 9:00 pm, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, winter and holidays.
Traveling in their motorhome several months each year, Arline and her photographer husband, Lee Smith, make their permanent home in Heber Springs, Arkansas. She currently is a presenter for Workamper Rendezvous, sponsored by Workamper News. Arline has dozens of magazine articles published, as well as five books: “Road Work: The Ultimate RVing Adventure” (now available on Kindle); “Road Work II: The RVer’s Ultimate Income Resource Guide”; “Truly Zula; When Heads & Hearts Collide”; and “The Heart of Branson”, a history of the families who started the entertainment town and those who sustain it today. Visit Arline’s personal blog at ArlineChandler.Blogspot.com