After a long winter and April showers, flowers are nice … but I'm declaring May the official visit-a-military-museum month. After all, Armed Forces Day is May 20 and we have fantastic museums around Missouri dedicated to our men and women in uniform, past and present.
The Civil War is well-represented in the Show-Me State with a trio of stops:
The Missouri Civil War Museum in St. Louis brings our history to life, from Ulysses S. Grant to Jesse James. Two floors of exhibits and galleries document the state's role in the Civil War, complete with original uniforms, weapons, photographs and much more.
The Stars and Stripes Museum and Library in Bloomfield celebrates the newspaper created specifically for the men and women in the U.S. military. The paper started in Bloomfield with the publication of the first edition on November 9, 1861, during the Civil War. That first issue and other artifacts are on display, as well as stories about the people who produced the publication over the years.
Wilson's Creek National Battlefield Visitors Center in Republic features a 27-minute film, museum and rotating exhibits, plus a five-mile self-guided driving tour through the battlefield that was the setting for second major battle of the Civil War. More than 2,500 Union and Confederate soldiers were killed, wounded or declared during the intense five hour battle.
Moving forward through history, make plenty of time for the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, the only American museum dedicated solely to preserving the objects and personal experiences of those who fought in the "War to End All Wars."
Indulge your love of both the romance and the hardware of World War II at the Commemorative Air Force Missouri Wing, Portage Des Sioux. With its collection of historic World War II aircraft, museum and gift shop, history and vintage plane buffs alike will love this stop.
Closest to home for me is the Museum of Missouri Military History at the Ike Skelton Training Site at the Missouri National Guard Headquarters in Jefferson City. Check out the set of newly-restored guns – believed once used by the Missouri Naval Militia back in the 1920s – now on display outside the museum. Venture indoors for a variety of exhibits documenting Missouri National Guard contributions in our country's military and humanitarian efforts around the world.
Museums at Fort Leonard Wood, Ft. Leonard Wood: Take the driving tour of the memorials at Fort Leonard Wood and then linger at the Mahaffey Museum Complex, which pays tribute to the Military Police, the U.S. Army Engineers and the Chemical Corps.
Obviously, there is more to see than one day will allow – I've just scratched the surface of our state's military museums and memorials here - and seriously, our military deserves more than a day. Good thing May is also Armed Forces Month!