Private Collection Spans 200 Years of Military Service

Private Collection Spans 200 Years of Military Service

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Coco Warner ReportingVeteran's Day provides us the opportunity to reflect on some of our history and of course, honor those who have worn the military uniform. Coco Warner reports on a special collection of uniforms and other artifacts that represent more than 200 years of military service.

Looking through the private collection, one is left with a feeling of awe. Not only at the scope of the collection, but from the knowledge that behind each tattered khaki coat is a real person who served in War.

Marvin Lewis, WW II Veteran: “This is my old uniform, Coco, and the only reason I am relatively proud of that uniform, oh I'm proud of the uniform per say, but I'm relatively proud of it by virtue of the fact that I can still fit into it."

Not bad, considering Marvin Lewis was just 18-years old when he enlisted in the U.S. Army as paratrooper nearly 60 years ago.

Marvin Lewis, World War II Veteran: "And of course our jumpsuit, I was a buck sergeant when I earned this and the jumpsuit was part of the mystique of being a paratrooper in those days."

Even touring the collection of World War II memorabilia Marvin says he doesn't like to get nostalgic about his service. He says War is never glamorous. People are often hurt, including himself in the South Pacific.

Marvin Lewis, World War II: "I glanced up and this Japanese soldier was standing maybe 30 feet away from me. War was immediate and impersonal at that point and he uh, it just felt suddenly as if like a ton of cement dropped on me."

Fortunately for Marvin he was able to survive the bullet wound, return home, go to medical school and raise a family in Ogden.

For Raymond Meldrum, the collection is an inspiration. His Utah company makes reproductions of World War II gear, most recently for the miniseries "Band of Brothers" and the movie Windtalker."

Raymond Meldrum, American Patrol Co.: "What I've found is the veterans of World War II, who are often referred to as the brown shoe army, loved their uniforms. They loved the look of their uniforms, it was very distinctive."

This private family collection has been more than 40 years in the making and spans nearly 230 years of American history-- starting with the Revolutionary War all the way to Desert Storm. But more important than the collection's range is the fact that there are real people behind each piece.

In his book, "The Things They Carried", Vietnam Veteran Tim O'Brien describes what each soldier packed along, from ammunition to love letters. But he also wrote: "They carried all the emotional baggage of men who might die. Grief, terror, love, longing-- "

The collectors themselves didn't want to be identified out of security concerns, but say most of the items were found at antique, military and gun shows, or simply by word of mouth. It's their hope that one day, they'll be able to find a suitable public space for the collection.

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