With Veterans Day rapidly approaching and Franklin County making preparations through the American Legion for the second Vet Day Parade, I want to alert you to a special place nearby to remember and honor veterans and to teach history to our younger generations.
I kept driving past the Sam H. Werner Military Museum between Sewanee and Monteagle, vowing to take my grandson in there whenever I had the chance because he loves anything motorized with big wheels and/or tracks. So, recently I took the opportunity to stop by and see the place.
It is only open Fridays and Saturdays between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. from May until the day after Veterans Day in November. There is no admission charge, but a big bucket full of donations is available.
I knew time was running out this year, so the opportunity was good.
I had a vague idea what to expect, but it was off-center. I was really surprised and fascinated at the displays inside the massive building serving as the museum with sparkling clean floors and well-kept military vehicles and equipment.
The museum opened in the spring of 2017 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit to showcase Werner’s extensive collection of military vehicles and other artifacts.
He worked for 50 years with his son and some friends to bring together a collection which encompasses items from World War I to the present, so you can view everything from horse-drawn wagons and carts to military Hummers, most of them in near-pristine condition.
Included are such displays as the complete collection of four prototype lightweight jeeps for the 1943 Glider Program, designed to be carried into Europe by gliders. Although soldiers figured out how to use regular-sized jeeps in their gliders, the prototypes still remained and are on display at Werner’s Museum.
You can get a feel for the evolution of the military jeep in the museum from the extensive collection of jeeps from early prototypes to the Vietnam-era clunkers we used to ride around in.
“The museum has items from the past 100 years,” explained the friendly volunteer as he took us on a tour. “We do have one tank that was used early in the Second World War before the Sherman was rolled out; it was particularly vulnerable to German Tiger tanks, and they had the advantage until the Sherman came along.”
Everything from ambulances to ammo carriers, howitzers and machine guns, and vehicles you have probably never seen before is on display. What strikes one as the tour is taken is how this hardware affected the soldiers who were operating them in wartime.
Of course, there are uniforms on mannequins from all services and all eras as well as cases and cases of smaller items, such as bayonets, field manuals, and on and on.
I even was handed a complimentary C-ration can opener, which we used to call a “church key,” for some reason which was never explained. It was small enough to hang on your “dog tags” chain, and that made it handy for getting into those C-ration cans when nothing else was available to eat.
The museum is located about one and a half miles west of Monteagle and I-24 toward Sewanee on Highway 41A, along a part of the Trail of Tears.
If you are coming from Sewanee, you will pass Saint Andrews-Sewanee School on your left just before getting to the museum, which will be on your right.
They will take special groups on tours anytime by appointment, and it is worth the effort to call 931-308-7854, so if you have a school class, scouts, or veteran group, you will not be disappointed by this trip back in time.
Like I said, time is running out this year for individual visits, so try to go by if you can make it before Nov. 12. Check it all out at www.wernermilitarymuseum.com.
This special museum showcases military items in the hope that it will pay tribute to our brave veterans and serve as a reminder for our younger generations, and that’s the way it oughtta be.
Award-winning editorial writer Alan Clark served for more than 28 years in the Army and is a veteran of Desert Storm. His columns are available as podcasts on Apple Music.