Marilyn Johnson, a LaFayette retiree, and Robert H. Honeycutt, a World War II veteran from the Chattanooga area, are working to start a museum featuring veterans memorabilia from 20th-century wars up to today.
Where we get enough support, we will build the museum, said Johnson, 64, who is retired from the Texas Department of Corrections as a prison guard.
After watching Sen. Bob Dole and actor Tom Hanks on television raising money for the National World War II Memorial that opened in Washington, D.C., in 2004, Johnson set out to organize a museum for veterans.
Johnson is the widow of Army 1st Class Sgt. Eugene Talmedge Cochran, who died at age 42 on active duty due to injuries sustained in Vietnam. Her father, Thomas W. Demsey of Rome, and her son, Reggie, 38, of Las Vegas, both served in the Army.
Since 2000, Johnson has been writing letters to World War II veterans she has never met. The veterans have responded to her with letters of gratitude and memorabilia from their experiences in war. In the letters she received from the veterans, she learned that many felt touched for someone finally thanking them for their service.
Johnson took the initiative to notify living veterans of the passing of other fellow veterans. Johnsons collection of veterans letters grew to include more than 18 albums, pictures, never-before-seen paintings and medals, among many other items.
Since 2000, Marilyn Johnson has been writing letters to World War II veterans she has never met. The veterans have responded to her with letters of gratitude and memorabilia from their experiences in war. In the letters she received from the veterans, she learned that many felt touched for someone finally thanking them for their service.
She hopes other veterans and families of veterans will contribute their letters, pictures, uniforms, medals and other memorabilia to add to the museum project. According to Johnson, all veterans are welcome to contribute their memorabilia.
We hope for people to give us names of other vets, she said.
Johnson and Honeycutt are looking for a location for the museum, but securing one is still a far-reaching prospect.
Honeycutt, 84, reached the rank of staff sergeant in the U.S. Air Force. He worked as a cameraman for the military, and served from Jan. 5, 1942 to Oct. 5, 1945. He served in the battles of Egypt-Libya, Tunisia, Sicily, Naples-Foggia, Rome-Arno, Rhineland, Central Europe and the Balkans.
Honeycutt and Jane Littlejohn Berz authored The Eleventh Man: Memories of the German Death March, Winter 1945. According to the book, as a prisoner of war, Honeycutt was forced to endure the little-known death march" from Stalag Luft IV.
The book recounts the experiences Honeycutt endured during the war. It reflects back to his childhood, enlistment and how he persevered through a destructive battle on a mission to Austria. The B-24 consisted of a 10-man crew, with Honeycutt being the 11th man. The B-24 was surviving on a single engine and lost brave men aboard the charter plane. Honeycutt grabbed the right wing gun and took to battle against German fighters.
As the B-24 was shot down, Honeycutt escaped and literally had to pull his parachute open. A German fighter had the opportunity to shoot him but waved his wings to allow him to keep his life.
The highly decorated war veteran was inspired to write his book by the late Desmond Doss of Walker County, a conscientious objector from World War II. Honeycutt is proud of his service to his country, and wants the generations to follow to be aware of the service of what is called the Greatest Generation.
As a cameraman (in World War II), I have lots of photos to contribute from the war, he said.
Those interested in contributing items can contact Johnson at (706) 638-0564.
According to Honeycutt, all of these men deserve to be acknowledged.
We want to preserve history, he said. They will be recognized.
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