New exhibit honors military veterans from all U.S. wars

"Honoring Those Who Served Their Country," an exhibit representing a chronological journey from the Revolution to the Cold War, opened at the Mooresville Museum May 14.

Longtime and newer residents have contributed uniforms, flags and assorted military paraphernalia to provide a look at the area's involvement in our country's history.

Flags from all service branches are displayed. A reproduction of the first official flag, with 15 stars - like the one that inspired Francis Scott Key to write "The Star-Spangled Banner" during the War of 1812 - stands in the Revolutionary War section.

Nearby, an authentic infantry jacket in pristine condition is the highlight of the Spanish-American War display. Museum board member Wayne Whitlow said patches on the sleeves indicate the owner was a bugler.

Whitlow is seeking information about a garment designed in the style of an American Doughboy uniform. Every detail except the buttons is identical to the outfit worn by soldiers in World War I.

In the World War II area, uniforms continue to help visitors visualize the era. Pauline White, a Statesville native, served in North Africa and Italy as a member of the Women's Army Corps. Her dress and cap are on loan.

Although women's contributions are highlighted and local names are mentioned, White's uniform is the only clothing of a servicewoman in the exhibit.

While Whitlow was talking about WWII clothing, Paul Mills arrived with patches from uniforms of men discharged after the war in Europe ended.

Mills, a supply corporal during the war, said soldiers returned their old uniforms for new ones, and he collected the discarded patches. They languished in shoe boxes until he recently framed them.

The two men discussed a cloth insignia commonly known as a "Ruptured Duck," which depicts an eagle inside a wreath. It was worn on the right breast pocket of a jacket and indicated a returning serviceman had received an honorable discharge and was not absent without leave.

Whitlow pointed out a "Ruptured Duck" on the coat of John Mack Wilson, who served at the Nuremberg war crimes trials after the war.

Visitors joined the discussion and talked about their wartime experiences. Some said they have memorabilia packed in cedar chests or closets where no one sees them and may donate pieces to the museum.

Although space is cramped in the historic building, volunteers will find a place for new acquisitions. They have learned to overcome obstacles.

After the success of a display of miniatures in December, board members decided to feature rotating exhibits. When the call went out to assemble pieces for the current show, people responded by lending or donating items.

Volunteers faced the dilemma of storing a portion of the permanent collection or downsizing the exhibit. They did neither. Instead, they dismantled the office and expanded the exhibit into that space.

Plans are being made for additional special exhibits. The next will focus on textiles and quilts. Miniatures will return in November.