Enjoy climbing aboard approximately 15 military vehicles raninging from motorcycles and Jeeps to Humvees when members of the American Veterans Historical Museum host an Interactive Military Vehicle Display as part of the closing events of the Putnam County Bicentennial on Sunday, Nov. 11. The show, which will be held in the parking lot behind the Historic Putnam County Courthouse, will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visitors can also meet Nero, a six-year-old German Shepherd and retired Bomb Detection Squad dog.
A Field of Dreams Needed for Veterans Museum
By Marty Collins
“If you build it, he will come.” These easily recognizable
words are from the film, “A Field of Dreams” about an Iowa farmer who builds a baseball diamond in the middle of his cornfields. Once built, the field is not only visited by legendary Chicago White Sox player Shoeless Joe Jackson and his seven teammates, all banned from the game as a result of the Black Sox scandal
in 1919, but eventually by visitors lined up in their cars as they travel from
all over to visit the marvelous field.
Members of the American Veterans Historical Museum (AVHM) share
precisely the same dream as fictional farmer Ray Kinsella. While they don’t
hear mysterious voices encouraging them to build it, they do envision a large
parcel of land in Putnam upon which their dream museum will be built. A plot of
land so marvelous that there will sufficient space to replicate WWI trenches,
build landing strips for air show use, and house not only military memorabilia but
actual military vehicles, some of which are among the only remaining examples
of their kind today.
AVHM member Bob Jacobs owns a 1918 Dodge Light Repair Truck
used by the Army during WWI. The vehicle, one of 1,000 built for the Armed
Services that year, is one of only four that exist today and one of only two
that can actually be driven. Jacobs said following WWI, the truck “was on a
farm in Northern California.” Then, in
1950, the farmer’s neighbor bought it. Jacobs purchased it from him about three
years ago and restored it himself.
“I had a copy of the original manual for it so I was able to
reproduce the canvas that was missing on it. I did my homework and was able to
restore it,” Jacobs said.
Jacob’s truck will be part of AVHM’s Interactive Military
Display during the county’s Bicentennial Closing Event which takes place on
Veterans Day, Sunday, Nov. 11. The display will be held in the parking lot
behind the Putnam Historic Courthouse from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Approximately 15
military vehicles owned by various AVHM members and dating from 1916 to 2012
will be available for the public to see and even climb into.
“Our members are really living historians as well as
collectors and aficionados of these vehicles,” said Jacobs. “They share their
knowledge with the public and we do have a hands-on approach which is wonderful
for the kids,” he said. “It’s a great photo opportunity,” said Jacobs.
Fellow AVHM members George Bateman and Brian Benedict will also
be on hand. Dressed in military garb, they as well as other AVHM members, will provide
information and answer questions concerning the 15 or so vehicles Benedict has
gathered for the event and include among others Bateman’s 1941 Army staff car, Benedict’s
WWII-era Jeep, a WWII-era Harley-Davidson motorcycle, several Humvees and a half-track.
According to Jacobs, Benedict, who operates the Duffel Bag,
a military supply store in Patterson, “is the person all of these AVHM people
met in one way or the other. I’ve known him for almost 20 years. He’s sort of the
glue that holds the idea of the museum together.”
Benedict has had plenty of experience in gathering people
together to view not only military vehicles but air shows, too. On behalf of
the AVHM, Benedict has produced a half-time show at an Army-Navy football game
as well as a show at Giants Stadium. And each year, the AVHM puts on an annual
display at West Point and the FDR Museum in Hyde Park. Most recently, Benedict
was approached by the Paladin Center in Carmel to discuss his partnering with
them “because they know I can draw a crowd. If I do a vehicle rally or
something on their property, people will come. They will come,” said Benedict.
Putting on displays and doing production work has led to
Benedict’s making unusual and mostly long-lasting connections. He recalled when
he and Jacobs were discussing possible locations within Putnam for the museum with
Deputy County Executive Bruce Walker. When Benedict mentioned something about a
B-17, Jacob said his father had flown one during WWII.
“Walker said he knew all about the B-17,” said Benedict. “His
grandfather had flown one and he had a picture of the plane in his office.”
So the three men went to Walker’s office to see the
photograph. When Jacob’s noted its number, B-17 997, he was astounded and told
Walker his dad had flown B-17 996.
“These planes were on airfields right next to each other,
were delivered on the same day,” Jacobs said.
It’s these kinds of coincidences and stories from veterans
themselves that propels Benedict and the other members of the AVHM to push
forward with the idea of turning their dream of a museum into a reality.
“We’re sort of speaking for the veterans now. I mean I
certainly speak for the veterans of the Great War because they are all gone.
And the rest of us speak for the veterans of the Second World War because
they’re just about all gone. Education is the key. The AVHM is really designed
to educate and our method is to use artifacts from the past,” said Jacobs who
is a guest lecturer at New Fairfield High School in CT where he arrives driving
a military vehicle. “As a group, we are a conduit to tell these stories to a
generation that will never have heard them,” he said.
Benedict spoke of a town in upstate New York where an
organization known as the 1941 Historical Aircraft Group puts on a weekend
airshow each year. “Geneseo brings in $3 million worth of tax revenue in two
and a half days,” he said. “They entertain about 30,000 people.”
Soon the entire community became involved when they realized
how many people attend the airshow. “The churches come. They hold a strawberry
festival. They have antiques, the whole craft thing. The entire town is a
sidewalk sale. All the restaurants are jammed. All the gas stations do
business. Everyone does business because these whacky old guys bring in their
airplanes,” Benedict said. And he says he can do the same in Putnam once the
museum is built. “I can do it,” he said. “It can be done.”
The AVHM members want to be located in one place where they
can grow their membership and put on events on a regular basis. They hope to
find a large tract of land in close proximity to the I-84/I-684 corridor.
“We have big plans and we have the wherewithal to do it,” Benedict
said. “We just need some help from the county or from a very wealthy
Once they have their field of dreams, the AVHM and Benedict
have plans to raise money to build their museum. “We’ll host a nice fine
antiques show. You know, the big white tents? I’m not a fancy person, but I
have the resources to do that,” he said.
The museum could also serve as a community civic center for
large meetings or conventions.
“There’s an old guy like me in Houston and he founded a
museum and it’s much larger than what I’m talking about. He had the forethought
and he common sense to say, ‘Okay, we’ll build this thing and they will come.’”
“And they will come,” said Benedict.
For more information or to join the AVHM, e-mail: