Friday, March 21, 2014

TOP STORY >> Big parade set for vets at museum

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville Museum of Military History’s third annual Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day on April 5 promises to attract a larger crowd than previous years with its new exhibit.

At least that is what organizer and museum director DannaKay Duggar hopes.

New this year is the “From Arkansas to Vietnam Dog Tag” Exhibit.

Duggar said dog tags representing the 592 Arkansans killed in Vietnam would hang from the ceiling of the museum.

On the tags, there will be names, branches of service, hometowns and the dates the soldiers were killed in action.

There will also be a legend and map on the wall to direct visitors who want to look for the dog tag representing a loved one, Duggar said.

The idea for the new attraction came from the National Veterans Art Museum in Chicago, she explained.

Duggar said, at its old location, visitors who walked in the door there were greeted by a display of 58,000 dog tags representing the soldiers who were killed in Vietnam.

On those dog tags were the names, their branches of service and the dates they were killed in action.

An estimated 406 people attended last year’s Welcome Home Day in Jacksonville, Dugger continued. More are expected this year because of the new exhibit and the early start on setting up the event.

Organizers began planning the event before Christmas, the director said. Posters promoting it are already in storefronts, and businesses that want to display posters can pick them up from the museum free of charge.

Duggar said, “I really think we have an opportunity to at least increase (participation) by 200 or maybe even double it… My goal is that we reach outside of central Arkansas. I want to bring people into this town.”

In addition to the new display, the museum’s other exhibits will be available for free from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m.

Another highlight of the day is the parade from 2 until 3 p.m. It will start from the First United Methodist Church on West Main Street and end at the museum, 100 Veterans Circle.

Everyone is invited to be in the parade, Duggar said. Bands, beauty queens, civic organizations, businesses and more are needed. The deadline to sign up is Friday.

The REAL Girls will perform live throughout the day, and veterans’ service organizations like the American Legion, the VFW, a survivor outreach service and a P.O.W. group from Missouri will have booths set up, Duggar said. A few booths, which are free, are still available.

Veterans and gold star families will be invited to sign an 8-foot-by-12-foot vinyl map of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia that will be displayed at the museum later.

Then, from 3 until 4 p.m., there will be an honor and remembrance ceremony with a MIA table ceremony performed by the Little Rock Air Force Base Honor Guard.

A $10 dinner will be served from 4 until 6 p.m. at the museum, but reservations for it must be made by Friday. Dinner sponsors are available for Vietnam veterans who can’t afford the meal.

While these attractions are meant to draw participants, Duggar emphasized that none of them are the main reason to celebrate. “The main reason (people) need to come out is to give the Vietnam veterans the welcome home they didn’t get when they came back,” the director said. “The war was very controversial, and a lot of the protesters took it out on the soldiers. There are those of us who remember how they were treated when they came home.”

Asked about how veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are respected and thanked now whether the war they’re in is supported or not, Duggar said people learned their lesson after Vietnam.

“I think society needed to redeem itself,” she said.

While the welcome-home event is not a fundraiser for the museum, donations will be accepted, Duggar said.

To sign up for the parade, reserve a booth, RSVP for the dinner or for more information, visit the museum, call 501-241-1943 or go online to