Local museum teaches history in order to honor military veterans
Mel Smith turned a 40-year hobby into a museum honoring veterans and educating young people about history and heroes.
The Michigan Traveling Military Museum displays photographs, certificates, and uniforms that belonged to Command Sgt. Maj. Lonnie Johnson.
There’s Command Sgt. Maj. Lonnie Johnson, a Vietnam War soldier who descended from sharecroppers. Johnson’s grandparents raised him in Flint. The family faced financial struggles. Johnson’s shirts were made from flour sacks. One pair of overalls was expected to last him for a full year.
The stories keep Smith and his team engaged. “That keeps us going. That drives us,” Smith said. “Our whole goal with this is we want to have an established place where people can come and look.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Lonnie Johnson, who died at age 65 in 2000, grew up in poverty before joining the U.S. Army to fight in Vietnam. While in the country, he learned the language and received accolades for helping the Vietnamese people.
The Michigan Traveling Military Museum has permanent displays representing more than 100 years of military history. The museum is at 725 Washington Ave.
The local office is wrapping up an extensive renovation project now and hopes to hold an Open House on Nov. 8. The Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency gave the county a $76,000 grant to renovate its offices inside the Bay County Building, 515 Center Ave. The Veterans office was in a small space on the 2nd floor. It moved to a 1st floor suite including offices, a break room, conference room, waiting room, and new furniture. Goulet is excited to reveal the space to local veterans.