HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - From being the only USO in the City of Hattiesburg for African American soldiers in 1942 to now being a historical building, the one of a kind African American Military History Museum celebrated their 10-year anniversary on Saturday.
“I feel like we are carrying on the legacy of why this building was built in the beginning," Sheila Varnado said.
“It means that a place that the entire community can rededicate themselves to the cultural and the survivability within the Mobile and Bouie Street community,” Ralph Lindsey said.
Since its opening in 2009, the museum is dedicated to not only preserving the Historic East Sixth Street USO but also precious military memorabilia within and increasing awareness of the contributions African Americans made in the armed forces over the decades.
“The African-American Military History Museum that we have here is a learning facility,” Ph.D. Sherita Johnson said. “It’s the leading learning institution.”
“I’ve seen this building and what it represents today is just awesome and we’re appreciative,” Charles Brown said. “It’s good. It’s good. It was good then but it’s better now.”
From California to Switzerland to South Africa, thousands have visited the museum. Committee members said they are proud of the strides the museum has taken, and as they close off 10 years, they’re looking forward to the next several years ahead.
Also, at the 10-year anniversary, WDAM Reporter Charles Herrington was awarded the African American Military Museum’s first-ever Distinguished Service Award. The award was for his work covering and highlighting stories about veterans and African Americans history in the Hattiesburg community.
“I’ve been covering this museum since before it was a museum back when they were restoring it,” Herrington said. “Getting it back up to speed and after it was practically destroyed by the tornado in 2013. It means a lot to me. It just means that my work means something to the folks here.”
The museum is open for the public to visit Wednesday through Saturday.