FOUR CORNERS – Over the past weekend, when the Military Weekend Motorcycle Poker Run launched on Saturday from Harmony Town Center, it made a unique stop along the way: at the new Museum of Military History on U.S. 192 in Four Corners.
The motorcyclists taking part in the fund-raising drive went southeast of St. Cloud and then Kissimmee on U.S. 192, eventually ending up at the museum at 5210 W. 192, just past Poinciana Boulevard. Proceeds from this event are being used to support the museum, which also gave the participants a free tour of the new building, which just opened on March 31.
“They started off at 9:15 this morning in Harmony, and they’re coming here,” said Rob Dent, the museum’s marketing director. “Then we’ll be doing a drawing for the top prize.”
There was one other perk available, Dent noted.
“Everybody who participated in the event will get a free membership to the museum,” he said.
The poker run, which cost $25 per bike and driver and $15 for each rider, also helped put the spotlight on the new museum, which is still getting the word out that it offers something unique for the U.S. 192 tourism corridor: a museum devoted entirely to the nation’s past wars, and the people who served in them.
For one thing, the museum might not exist without the donations from local residents of the very historic items that they have made a part of their collection for others to see.
“Ninety percent of what we have in our collection was donated to us,” Smith said.
Pointing to all the historic items that had been donated to the museum – from uniforms to a flight simulator to an air launch rocket – Don Smith, chairman of the museum’s board of directors, said they get new items virtually every week, meaning there’s always something new to see at the museum.
“It’s so important to have a place where people can bring these things,” Smith said. “They’re not teaching military history in school anymore, and the kids have got to learn about it someplace.”
That’s a void that the museum eagerly hopes to fill. Originally housed in a much smaller office at the Osceola Square Mall, the museum’s collection of military memorabilia grew so rapidly that they quickly ran out of space. The directors were forced to look for a larger building, and found it in their current location.
“We’ve had people donate from all over the place,” Smith said. “We’ve had people in Polk County who have given us things, and Solivita is in Polk County, and they’re very active with us.”
It starts with a wall commemorating the local Medal of Honor recipients, including Puerto Rican Medal of Honor recipients from Central Florida.
“This is our wall of heroes and Medal of Honor winners,” Smith said, adding that the wall includes the uniform worn by one of two Osceola County veterans killed in the current Middle East conflict.
Jason K. Burnett of St. Cloud died in the line of duty while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“We asked his parents if they would like something on display, and they did,” Smith said.
The first room that visitors to the museum come to hosts items collected from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – a room that Smith said was likely to undergo considerable change in the months and years ahead, since both wars are still going on and history is still being written there.
“This is a work in progress here,” he said. “We’re working with veterans coming back to see if they can contribute to what we already have here.”
Among the items they have now are a tank periscope that was used in Kuwait City, and uniforms from soldiers from Sweden who are a part of the peacekeeping forces.
“Sweden has soldiers and a contingent,” Smith said. “They’re a part of NATO as well.”