Veterans Column: Supporting Veterans Causes Invokes Family, Friends Who Served
By Don Irelan, GCVF Volunteer and Son of a WWII Navy Veteran
On Nov. 11, the National Museum of the United States Army celebrated its grand opening.
The museum project was a joint effort between the U.S. Army and the Army Historical Foundation. The Army Corps of Engineers built the infrastructure, roads and utilities, and the foundation raised the private funds to design and build the museum at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, outside of Washington, D.C.
The museum offers multiple galleries that honor 30 million American soldiers who have served during more than 245 years of Army history. The galleries showcase many time periods, including the Colonial period, the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, the Global Wars – World Wars I and II, the Cold War, the Vietnam conflict and the War on Terror.
Museum galleries also showcase experiences of soldiers and the valor shown by past Medal of Honor recipients.
In 2013, the nonprofit Army Historical Foundation reached out to me to solicit donations in support of the museum. As a non-veteran who did not serve in any military branch, I donated an affordable amount to the foundation to support the joint project undertaken by the Army and the foundation.
Since then, I have donated modest amounts periodically. I encourage others also to donate on behalf of the museum at the foundation’s website is https://armyhistory.org.
When I was first contacted by the foundation, I reflected on the people who had had the most influence on me, a member of the post-WWII “Baby Boomer” generation. One great honor I missed in my lifetime is that God’s plan did not include military service when I was a young adult during America’s Vietnam Era.
Because many of my high school classmates, friends and family members had been called into past military service, I donated to the foundation on behalf of the museum project.
Considering the museum project, I also thought about my wife’s late father, Pasquale “Pat” Fiorello, who joined the Army in 1941 and served during WWII alongside fellow soldiers deployed to various islands in the Western Pacific. Pat had arrived in the Pacific war zone in May 1942, and he remained there until mid-1944 when he was ordered stateside to an Army hospital to receive treatment for a tropical illness suffered while deployed.
Considering other reasons to support the museum project, I also thought about my late father, Harold, a WWII veteran. He joined the Navy at age 18 and received training as an aircrew member aboard a dive bomber, referred to as the Douglas SBD Dauntless, which became known for its success during the Battle of Midway.
I also thought about my brother Denny, a naval aviator who flew 100 air missions over hostile areas of North and South Vietnam, and later commanded a Navy ship during the 1991 Gulf War.
Finally, I thought about my sister’s husband, Bob, who was deployed three times to Vietnam hostile zones, twice aboard a “blue water” Navy supply ship and third, to command a Navy river patrol vessel until being reassigned as team liaison between Navy and Army forces.
I truly honor my family’s veteran members and friends who have served in the military. I also honor the stories shared by all Americans who likewise respect their familiar veterans.
One method by which such respect may be shared is by supporting nonprofit foundations that fund military museums, such as the Army Historical Foundation on behalf of the National Museum of the United States Army, and by supporting local nonprofits that reach out to serve and directly assist veterans of all military branches.
Unfortunately, due to the ongoing COVID-19 global pandemic, the museum has closed its doors temporarily for safety reasons as have public museums and institutions nationwide. Patriots and military history buffs now await another opening of the museum after COVID-related safety issues have been resolved.
Stories, artifacts and displays regarding the U.S. Army and its soldiers have been archived by the foundation and will be available for viewing by visitors at the museum. For updates as they become available, visitors should visit the National Museum of the United States Army website at www.thenmusa.org.
Don Irelan has served as a volunteer at Gold Coast Veterans Foundation since 2016. In 2013, he became a founding sponsor of the Army Historical Foundation in support of the project to build the National Museum of the United States Army.
Source: VC Star article from March 1, 2021