The Dallas Jones Veterans Museum in Roanoke Rapids, NC
Dallas Jones has served with distinction at Pearl Harbor, the Battle of Midway and Guadalcanal. But, by his account, his story is just one of many that deserve to be heard.
“Being a Pearl Harbor survivor, I’ve never had a shortage of people wanting to talk to me, but my concern is for every veteran to have a chance to tell his story,” he says.
Dallas Jones Veterans Museum
Now, that dream has become a reality. Opened in 2008, the Dallas Jones Veterans Museum at Becker Village Mall uses photos and artifacts to tell the stories of veterans from Civil War times to the present day.
“Mr. Jones has been wanting to open a veterans center for many years,” says Ellen Heaton of Heaton Real Estate, which owns the Becker Village Mall and donated the museum space. “He’s a very quiet but determined man, and he worked so hard to make this dream come true to honor veterans.”
The museum’s first exhibit was a photo wall that initially housed fewer than 50 portraits of veterans; now, about 1,000 images fill the space.
“After a couple of weeks, it just exploded. People would see newspaper articles, hear a radio spot or go in to visit, and they were so touched, they wanted to contribute,” Heaton says.
Thanks to those contributions, the museum has built a collection of artifacts from every branch of the military. The local American Legion donated a complete set of service flags, and members of the community have brought in uniforms, spy equipment and other memorabilia.
“We’ve even got a wooden leg from the Civil War,” Jones says.
Heaton estimates that 50 to 60 people, including numerous school groups, visit the museum each week. The museum’s library and its special exhibits on Purple Heart recipients, Navajo Code Talkers and the Tuskegee Airmen are among the most popular attractions.
The museum has also become a gathering place for local veterans, and a videographer for the Library of Congress’s Veterans History Project comes once a month to interview them.
“This is first-person history, different from what you’ll see in New York or even at the Quantico Marine base,” Jones says. “Those museums have a lot of information about how the big shots ran the wars, but this is our own thing. We have details about what each person did.”
In keeping with that focus, the museum hosts special events designed to honor rank-and-file soldiers and their sacrifices. Monthly flag ceremonies highlight individual veterans from the photo wall, and events on Veterans Day and Pearl Harbor Day have drawn hundreds of participants.
The museum also partners with Wreaths Across America, a national program that provides wreaths for veterans’ graves.
“All this tells visitors that there were many people from this area that served their country proudly. It reminds visitors that these people should be honored,” Heaton says.
And that’s just the impact Jones wants the museum to have.
“I like that we’re honoring veterans of all wars and that the local veterans who weren’t honored before are now being honored,” he says. “Everyone who comes in here says it’s a wonderful thing, and that’s really heartwarming to me.”
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