It is a hidden gem on the Perry Point VA Medical Center’s nearly 400 acres.
Tucked inside an 18th century grist mill on the property, Ming Vincenti takes us back in time to 1918, when the government bought the land to support the war effort during World War I leasing the acreage to the Atlas Powder Company.
"They were up and running in four months and they were manufacturing the ammonium nitrate for explosives for the war for four months and then the war ended,” said Vincenti, “So for a brief time it was the U.S. Public Health Service that was caring for war beneficiaries on this property and then in 1922, the Veterans' Bureau took over and we've been caring for veterans here for 95 years."
What started as a hospital for wounded soldiers evolved into something more.
An article from 1932 eludes to cutting edge methods of helping veterans by reconstructing minds with athletics decades before Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD had been recognized.
In addition to sports, the bureau provided patients with their own printing press and other hands on means of helping them overcome their physical and mental challenges.
"We have on display some of the items that were used in the Forties, Fifties, Sixties by the veterans who were hospitalized here for treatment, and in the toy chest behind me, we have wooden toys that were made by the veterans as part of a manual arts therapy program," said Vincenti.
They are images and relics tied to the sacrifice, the bravery and the service of our veterans, coupled with memories of their long roads to recovery to finally return home from war.
"It can appeal to anyone,” said Vincenti, “If you have a younger child or a school group comes here, they can remember hearing stories from their grandfather or their father of his war stories, his or her war stories or different stories like that or if it's a veteran that comes in and is in his 80s or his 90s then he can look at some of these things and say, 'Oh yes. I remember when we did this or we did that.'"
The museum is free and will hold its grand opening on Saturday from 10am to 2pm.
Its regular hours will be Thursdays and the first and third Saturday of each month also from 10am to 2pm.