Veterans Day at the Museum

Written by Meghan Gattignolo 

Living in a military town, as we do, a good many of us who call Clarksville home know a military veteran or two – usually a close friend or family member. We all regularly see soldiers in uniform as a matter of course at grocery stores, restaurants and the mall. A quick drive down Fort Campbell Boulevard will reacquaint us with the proximity of the U.S. military to our lives. We often celebrate the military’s impact on our community here in Clarksville.  

As we recognize Veterans Day, it serves us to remember that the holiday is a celebration not only of soldiers, but of the end of war and the joy a soldier must feel when they realize they can return home. Veterans Day was once referred to as Armistice Day in the United States, because it was the day World War I officially ended with the cessation of fighting on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month: November 11, 1918. November 11 is still recognized as Armistice Day in France and other countries, and it’s called Remembrance Day in the United Kingdom.  

Since Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae was inspired to write “In Flanders Field” in 1915, the poppy has symbolized the blood spilled in WWI and is used to remember the fallen. 

Today, Veterans Day does not solely commemorate WWI soldiers – though we do well to remember them – but soldiers of all American wars and the sacrifices they all made of family, personal welfare and their peace of mind for our own. This year at the Customs House Museum & Cultural Center, we host author Susan P. Hunter. After discovering a horde of letters written to and from her mother during the Vietnam War, Hunter composed the book 77 Letters: Operation Morale Booster: Vietnam from the stories she learned.      

Hunter’s mother, Joan Hunter, began a mission of her own in 1966 to make sure every soldier on the battlefields of the Vietnam War had a letter to read at mail call. “Operation Morale Booster” led Joan to establish some unexpected relationships, and made life just a little bit better for the young men she wrote to who were sent across the globe to carry out a controversial war. The book focuses on one such relationship with a young soldier named Bob Johnson and the unique insights that Joan’s written conversation with him reveals.  

The book has gained national attention and will be adapted into a docuseries and stage play. Susan Hunter was unaware of the letter-writing campaign her mother embarked on until she found the letters in her attic as an adult, but she will make sure the world knows about her mother’s contribution to the American war effort and soldier morale.       

This Friday, November 11, Hunter will discuss her book and developing docuseries in the Geraldine Brame Turner Auditorium at 10:30 am, followed by a chance to get your own copy of her best-seller 77 Letters, signed by the author. Before you leave the Museum, purchase admission to check out the Becoming Clarksville exhibit in Heritage Hall, where you can learn about how the military has impacted Clarksville, as well as enjoy the rest of what the Museum has to offer every Clarksville resident and visitor. 

Meghan E. Gattignolo

Meghan E. Gattignolo is a freelance writer and longtime Clarksville, TN resident. She loves to obsess about historical subjects and annoy her family daily with unsolicited random facts.  Meghan holds a History B.A. from Austin Peay State University and lives in town with her husband and two daughters. 

Becky Wood, Technical Writer, edits each blog post. Maegan Collins, Marketing Communications Manager, prepares photographs and visual images as well as prepares the blog posts for the web. 

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