Veterans’ Museum Preserves History Because ‘Freedom Isn’t Free’
BELMONT — American Legion Post 312 is only a few years shy of its 100-year anniversary and has been collecting and gathering military memorabilia throughout its rich history.
That memorabilia recently became the basis of the collection of the Belmont County Military Veterans Museum under the direction and vision of former Legion post 312 Commander Floyd Simpson. Since Simpson’s death in 2016, museum Director Kim Kuthy and Assistant Director Cheryl Skinner have been keeping his dream alive, doing their best to improve and grow the museum’s collection of uniforms, photos, medals, books, flags, plaques and other historic military items and documents. The museum shares the same building with Legion Post 312.
“Our goal here is to teach the next generation that freedom isn’t free,” said Kuthy. “Somebody fought for the right for our freedom, it didn’t just happen on its own.”
As a national organization, the American Legion’s history dates back to 1919, when Congress first chartered it as a patriotic veterans organization. The Legion is the largest wartime veterans service organization with 2.4 million members in nearly 14,000 posts in nearly every community in America.
Kuthy and Skinner have been seeking grants and donations for upgrades for the Legion Post building, which was once a church that was constructed in 1869. After the museum was established in 2014, the roof has been replaced and the restroom and front entrance ramp have been upgraded to Americans with Disabilities Act standards.
The construction of the new entrance ramp was completed recently, thanks to a grant awarded by the South Central Power Co. The Legion Riders of Post 52 of Bellaire also recently hosted a poker run fundraiser for the museum that raised $800. In addition, four flag display cases were recently donated by Wal-Mart at The Highlands, according to Skinner.
“The Legion Riders were so much fun — they were wonderful. They said they want to help us sand blast and paint our cannon,” Kuthy said. “They are here to help the veterans and promote Floyd Simpson’s vision of keeping military history alive and helping veterans.”
“The reason we decided to help these ladies is for our youth,” said Legion Riders Post 52 Road Capt. Bruce Harris. “They are preserving veterans’ history and we can’t forget this (history). …We are a part of the Legion family, and this is what we do.”
Volunteer Mitch Bartels has been involved with the museum project as well, and he has volunteered to facilitate part of Simpson’s vision for the museum’s collection.
“I became involved with the museum at the request of Floyd Simpson. He wanted me to put a video together of veterans in Belmont County telling their stories,” Bartels said. “The museum project was near and dear to Floyd Simpson — he and my father (William Bartels) were veterans of the Korean Conflict. I think it’s a nice way to honor my father’s and Floyd’s service to our country.”
Kuthy said Bartels has interviewed one veteran so far, and they are both asking for any military veteran who wants to share their story to contact the museum to be interviewed.
“I’m just looking for people who are willing to talk about their service in the military, not just combat veterans,” Bartels said. “We have focused on veterans in Belmont County, but we wouldn’t turn down any veteran who would like to tell their story. This video project is to preserve the memories of the past generation. We are losing those memories as we lose those people.”
Kuthy said she is encouraged by all the support she has received from the Legion Riders and local businesses.
“This is exciting. … I thought for a while after Floyd died this would not happen,” Kuthy noted.