By Matt Clevenger
For Miami Valley Today
TROY — Veterans from the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard gathered at the Miami Valley Veterans Museum in Troy on Wednesday, May 5, for a special ceremony honoring local World War II veterans Robert Tweed, Harry Christy and Harry Ashburn.
“Three men; three heroes,” guest speaker Dr. Vivian Blevins said. “There’s no way we can thank them enough for their service.”
Approximately 85 veterans attended the ceremony, which was part of the museum’s monthly veterans’ coffee event for May. Christy and Ashburn attended the ceremony; Robert Tweed passed away in August 2018, so his granddaughter and two great-granddaughters attended the ceremony in his honor.
“It’s going to be hard for me to do all this today without crying,” Dr. Blevins said. “Bob’s birthday would have been yesterday, and he would have been 100.”
Both Harry Christy and Harry Ashburn are also nearly 100 years old.
“Harry Christy’s the oldest,” Dr. Blevins said. “He’s just shy of 100.”
Stationed in Europe during World War II, Christy was at the Battle of the Bulge.
“He was in combat for 249 consecutive days,” Dr. Blevins said. “He went through Belgium, France and Germany, as part of General Patton’s Third Army.”
Harry Ashburn was stationed in the Philippines during World War II, then returned home and attended college at Otterbein College and Ohio University.
“He became a teacher, a principal and a coach for decades,” Dr. Blevins said.
Robert Tweed was also stationed in Europe during World War II.
“He was one of the people sent to Dachau the day after Americans liberated it, to bear witness to the atrocities that occurred there,” Dr. Blevins said.
World War II veterans Paul Holfinger and Al Daum were also recognized for their service during the ceremony.
“I’ll be 95 on the tenth of June,” Daum said. “I’m a young guy; I went in when I was 17.”
Guest speaker Gregory Tucker delivered a presentation for veterans on navigating the VA health care system. Tucker has spent the last 20 years working with homeless veterans and serving in various positions at the Dayton VA.
“The VA system can be pretty tricky to navigate,” Tucker said. “I want to help them actually get those benefits.”
“It’s getting to know the process,” he said. “It took me several years to learn that. I’m still learning these processes; as soon as you get to know one process, something will change.”
The museum has held its veteran’s coffee events monthly for almost 10 years, although the events were canceled for several months due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“Without the coronavirus, we usually attract between 75 to 125 veterans for those events,” executive director Karen Purke said. “They get free coffee and doughnuts or sometimes they get a full breakfast if someone sponsors it. They can talk to veterans; they all have some common experiences.”
The veterans’ museum is still in the process of moving into its new location at 2245 S. County Road 25-A in Troy. Larger than the museum’s previous location on the second floor of the Masonic Temple building in downtown Troy, the new building is still in the midst of renovations. All work is being performed by volunteer construction crews, and the museum is currently in need of an experienced plumber to help with the renovations.
“We’re just going to take it one step at a time,” Purke said of the move. “It’s a $1.7 million project, and that includes the purchase of the property, the upgrades that are needed as well as renovations.
“We have a capital campaign fund with the Troy Foundation, so people can go to the Troy Foundation website or make a contribution through the Troy Foundation,” she said. “Those funds are specifically earmarked for our capital campaign and building improvements.”
“We will be ready by the fall,” Purke said. “But our renovations will be ongoing, and upgrades will continue.”
The museum has approximately 20,000 individual items in its collection, including a rare Higgins Boat that has been put on loan to the museum for one year.
“It was a boat that saw service in Okinawa during World War II,” Purke said. “It’s the last original Higgins Boat in existence.”
The veterans’ museum is currently planning several other upcoming events, including a military vehicle show for Sept. 10-12, and a Drill Heroes competition on Sunday, May 23.
“We’re working with the Ohio Motor Pool to do a large event that will showcase military vehicles and re-enactors,” Purke said.
The Drill Heroes competition will be hosted by the Miami Valley Young Marines and will be held rain or shine.
“There are four different age groups,” Purke said. “They’re doing elementary, middle school, high school and adults; registration starts at 1 p.m. and the first round starts at 2 p.m.”
Hamburgers and hot dogs will be served; the event is free to attend, registration to compete will be $5.
The museum has also started hosting weekly bingo, starting at 1 p.m. on Saturdays.
“We’ve been holding bingo at the museum now for five weeks,” communications director Carl DeSantis said. “We’re starting to get a good following.”
More information can be found online at the veterans’ museum website at www. miamivalleyveteransmuseum.org.