If we don’t know from whence we came, how will we understand who we are, and where we go? This is why learning and sharing history is so important, and I’m not talking about the leftist “revisionist” version of history. I know I say this a lot, but as George Santayana stated back in the 1920s, “those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” And for me, there’s no greater type of history to learn than that of the men and women who sacrificed in order for us to live in freedom.
But what happens if we don’t seek to honor and safeguard those places where our history — their history — is told? Check out this story from the Tampa Bay Times:
“As her grandson skipped in a circle around the Russian fighter jet, Marge Anderson tucked her car keys in her purse and stole a glance at the aircraft.
“Never in my life, have I seen such a thing. This is definitely an unusual place,” said Anderson, 72. Her grandson Michael, 6, stopped skipping to tug his grandmother toward the entrance. “I want to ask if they have some other weapons I can look at too.”
For now, the answer to Michael’s question is yes, sort of. The Armed Forces History Museum, at 2050 34th Way N, will be open during regular hours this weekend, and on Sunday, there will be the added perk of free admission for all. After that, the museum will be shuttered to the public.
In October, the founder of the museum, John Piazza Sr. of Seminole, died at 77. Six weeks later, Cindy Dion, the assistant executive director, announced the nonprofit museum would close, saying the expenses were too much to bear without the personal financial support of the founder. At the same time, Dion hoped someone would step up to keep the collection available to the public.
“We are hoping this is our Hail Mary pass. That somebody out there will stand up and say, ‘No way. This can’t happen,'” Dion said at a Nov. 30 news conference. The 50,000-square-foot museum includes hundreds of artifacts large and small, tanks, fighter aircraft, interactive exhibits of a World War I trench and Pearl Harbor, a re-creation of the Ho Chi Minh Trail as well as a hanging model of Chuck Yeager’s Bell X1 jet.
Piazza, who received his first artifact, a German mortar, as a gift about 60 years ago, first began sharing his passion and ever-growing collection of military history through a traveling exhibit. However, in 2008, he decided to renovate the warehouse he used for storage into a museum space. A few days before the grand opening, he explained to a Tampa Bay Times reporter, “I was saddened to learn that the younger generation doesn’t know much of our history beyond the Civil War. The museum is designed to give people a sense of events … yet keep their attention.” However, with an estimated operating yearly cost of $800,000, the museum continually was in the red and although in the last four years staff had created successful special event programming that cut into the deficit, money continued to be a challenge, Dion said.”
There’s one statement from this story with which I must disagree. Many of our children don’t have any comprehension of our history from the war for liberty known as the Revolutionary War forward. This is why we need to preserve all our national battlefields and museums that teach our generations freedom is not free. They need to learn the stories about the men and women who’ve made “the last full measure of devotion.” You see, there is no greater love than that of one who will lay down their life for another. And that simple story is part of the greatness, the exceptionalism of America. It’s what has defined us in these 240 years, how we’ve stood up against tyranny to advance a simple concept, liberty.
I lived in South Florida for eleven years after retiring from my twenty-two years of military service. The vision, the dream of Mr. John Piazza Sr. must be saved. So here is my simple call to arms…let’s save this place. I know there are countless people of means throughout Florida who can easily save the Armed Forces History Museum, and even make it better so more kids can visit and have field trips there. But, let’s spread the word, and if we all just give $10, heck, our Facebook page has over 2.6 million followers, we got this. And just imagine what you’ll have been a part of for future generations of Americans. C’mon, we can make it happen, and I look forward to reading that the Armed Services History Museum, the legacy of John Piazza Sr., will continue on, and on, and on.
“For Michael Anderson, the young visitor, going inside the Armed Forces History Museum made him “want to learn how to protect everybody and be a soldier.”The comment made Marge Anderson smile. “If he grows up learning what the military does and then decides to join the army or even become a police officer to protect everybody, that would be okay with his grandma. This place can help him with all that.”
I remember going to visit the Cyclorama in Atlanta that depicted the Civil War Battle of Atlanta. I remember when my World War II Veteran dad took me to the site of Andersonville Confederate prison. If future generations don’t know about the honor and privilege to serve, then who will be the “Guardians of the Republic?”
We’ve set up a GoFundMe page for the museum. Click here to donate.