HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - The Huntsville Veterans Memorial Museum has so many collections, they can't fit them all inside the converted airplane hangar they call home. The museum's founder jokes, it's like fitting an elephant inside a matchbox.
“Space is always the issue," says Randy Withrow.
Rest assured, the space they do have, is used to the fullest. “We have the oldest surviving ancestor of what became known as the Jeep," says Withrow. “We have a lot of things that we can’t get in here that we would want to when we get them restored.”
It's the largest independently owned military collection outside of the Smithsonian, with 240 years of military history on display. We're talking aircraft, tanks, muskets, uniforms that line the walls. A good portion of it originates from the founder's personal collection.
“Once we got the Jeep, we said wouldn’t it be nice to have everything WWII? It was downhill from there," he says.
The retired Lieutenant Colonel's combat days may be over, but his mission to preserve history, rages on. He longs for the day when more of the collection can be on display. “In a perfect world, the city would like to see us down near the memorial in a large new building. The problem is foot space. In a slightly imperfect world, we’d like to expand so we’re working in either of those directions," says Withrow.
While the museum works toward a decision on which path to take, he just hopes you'll take a peek inside. “When the time comes, It’d be nice if they supported us in expanding or building a new building," he says.
After all, it shouldn't have to be a federal holiday for all of us to take time to appreciate what treasures the place has to offer.
“We want to make sure the country understands the role of our veterans and our military," says Withrow.