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American Legion post proud of its museum

Posted: November 8, 2017 - 2:20am
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A piece of the Berlin Wall, sand from a beach at Normandy, uniforms from various branches of service and medals are among the many treasures contained in the Rex Bell Museum at the Jesse C. Lynch Memorial American Legion Post 71.

The museum will be open to the public after the Veterans Day observance at 11 a.m. Friday at the Wade Hampton Veterans Park. The American Legion Women's Auxiliary will serve homemade soup and desserts.

"There's nowhere else in North Augusta that has something like this," said John Zeitz, post commander, of the military history museum. Sometimes, the Arts and Heritage Center of North Augusta will have a temporary exhibit, but items contained at the American Legion post are on permanent display.

When the new building was constructed six years ago, the design called for a room to be designated as a museum, and once it was open, a call went out for memorabilia.

"Some items are on loan; some have been donated. People came out of the woodwork," said Ralph Wainright, immediate past commander of the post.

One of the champions of the museum was Vietnam veteran Rex Bell, who died in March 2016, and for whom the museum was renamed. Bell, a former employee of the Morris Museum of Art, put a lot of energy into the museum, according to Wainright.

"He loved this place. Some of the artifacts he found," he said.

Bell often persuaded people and businesses to donate related items to the museum.

Many of the pieces have belonged to American Legion post members. There are numerous photographs on the walls of the veterans during their time of service. In addition, there are newspaper articles and other printed items.

One of the most recent acquisitions is a piece of the USS Arizona, which was sunk at Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941.

A few years ago, the National Park Service in Hawaii made remnants of the Arizona available to organizations that would display it to the public and not charge any type of admission to see it. It was unveiled at the organization's annual birthday celebration in 2016.

Wainright said items on display are changed frequently because of the room's size. There are a couple of cases at the entrance of the building which house more items.

For information, call the post at (803) 341-9552.

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