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Area veterans contribute memorabilia for new exhibit

On Jan. 30, members of the Washington County Veterans Committee and the Heritage Alliance of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia gathered at the Jonesborough Visitors Center Museum to accept artifacts from days gone by – military items to be put into a rotating museum display and then to be returned to their owners.
The war mementos brought back a lot of memories to the donors who visited the museum last week.
One of the first contributors, Marion Light, chairman of the Veterans Committee, brought a plaque that honored his late father, Dana H. Light.
The plaque read, “TEC 4 Dana Light, 295th Ord. Hvy. Maint. Co., European Theater, 1944-45. Below that inscription are the words, “Two bronze stars for bravery.”
“I had this made up for him,” Light said. “He hung it on his wall and acted like it didn’t mean much to him. But I know it did.”
Fred Phillips was another contributor, bringing in a copy of the 101st Airborne Training Manual dated February 1956.
Phillips served with the 101st Airborne and was stationed on the demilitarized zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea during the Korean War.
James B. Clark Jr., who was a corporal during World War II, brought in his uniform, a folding water basin and a can opener ­— still on the original keyring — for 10-1 rations.
He also contributed a certificate, recognizing his participation in the ceremony at the surrender of Japan military forces in Tsingtao, China, a major historical event during World War II.
“That was when the Japanese signed an accord with the Chinese to get all of their people out of China,” Clark said. “The signing took place on a big military field and there was an enormous crowd there. It was a huge affair.”
The signing represented the conclusion of missions completed by the 6th Marine Division and led by Maj. Gen. Lemuel C. Shepherd throughout the Okinawa Operation.
Shepherd subsequently took the Division to Tsingtao, China. It was there on Oct. 25, 1945, he received the surrender of the Japanese forces in this area.
Clark remembers accepting Japanese soldiers as passengers on his ship and returning them to Japan.
“It was the end of the war for the Japanese in China,” Clark said, “and it meant that we had done our work in China and the South Pacific. It also meant we were going home and I was thrilled and elated.”
These items and other artifacts will be part of the exhibit from Veterans of Recent Wars, according to Ann Mason, Heritage Alliance special projects coordinator.
“We really wanted to keep it just to the 20th century war items,” Mason said, “but we might also add in some peace time items as well.”
The Veterans of Recent Wars exhibit is scheduled to open May 27.
Mason said the more contemporary military exhibit should be a good forerunner to a traveling Civil War exhibit set to open in the Visitors Center Museum in June.
“We’ll be installing that exhibit June 20-21, so it should open sometime around June 25,” Mason said. “It will be in the center of the museum and some of the cases around the perimeter will be changed to reflect Jonesborough’s Civil War stories as companion pieces.”
The Heritage Alliance is also working on plans for future exhibits to include the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, Mason said.
The Heritage Alliance and the Veterans Committee will continue their artifact collection for the Veterans of Recent Wars exhibit, accepting items at the Visitors Center Museum from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 18, Saturday, March 17, and Saturday, March 26.
Items contributed are merely on loan to the museum for six months and are not meant to be permanent donations. Although the exhibit itself is permanent “for the foreseeable future,” the artifacts on display will change about every six months, Mason said.