ESTELL MANOR — Richard Newell, of Northfield, accompanied by his daughter Dawn Walker, of Linwood, recently visited the Atlantic County Veterans Museum for the first time.
The Air Force veteran, who served during the Vietnam War, became aware of the facility when he received a letter seeking items relating to his time in the military.
“It is very well put together,” Newell said. “I’m impressed by the diversity of exhibits. ... It’s an outstanding tribute, telling how Atlantic County residents served the country.”
The museum, in the historic Daniel Estell House on Route 50 just below the Atlantic County Park, opened its doors in May. It adjoins the Atlantic County Veterans Cemetery in the park.
The museum houses military artifacts and personal donations from every major United States conflict from the Revolutionary War through modern day, much of it donated by local veterans.
In 2013, Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson appointed former county Executive Richard E. Squires to serve as chairman of a Veterans Museum Committee that included veterans, historians and community members to assist with gathering and researching artifacts and materials for the new museum.
The committee received cooperation from the Atlantic County Veterans Museum Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit, to provide fundraising to support the creation of exhibits, displays and the preservation of museum items.
Squires said he is excited to have seen the project come to fruition.
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“The visitors who come to the Atlantic County Veterans Museum have responded with very positive remarks,” Squires said. “The comments come with some tears as the veterans who attend reflect back on their service time."
Squires said the museum was put together by a group of dedicated volunteers who spent hours building the best display of the service provided by local veterans to their country. He added each section of the museum is dedicated to a different war era.
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Albert Davenport, of Mays Landing, served a tour in Korea during the Vietnam War era as a crew chief. After returning home, he graduated from college and entered the Marines, where he became a second lieutenant and platoon commander.
Davenport contributed items to the museum, including some from his grandfather, who served in the army in World War I and then joined the U.S. Naval Construction Battalions, aka the Seabees, where he served in the Pacific Theater during World War II.
Davenport also provided artifacts from his father’s service during the Korean War as well as from his own time in the service.
“The museum is marvelous,” he said. “They continue to receive new donations every day from people who want to contribute items to honor the service members in their family. It’s valuable to our residents because they can see things from local people who served.”
Davenport added that his wife, Melissa, plans to donate items from her family, members of which participated in the Indian Wars in Utah in the 1800s.
Assistant Administrator Nick Leonetti oversees operations at the museum.
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“It’s a beautiful tribute to the veterans in Atlantic County,” he said. “Our main goal is to visually tell as many stories as possible about the veterans from the area.”
Squires added that improvements will continue to be made, including the addition of video displays and kiosks.
“In addition to attracting area residents, it is our hope that local schools will schedule their classes to visit the museum,” he said.
Levinson is proud of how the museum has developed.
“The Atlantic County Veterans Museum is another way in which we pay tribute to the sacrifice of our local veterans,” he said. “But it also allows us to share their experiences with future generations to ensure that they are never forgotten. We hope the museum will serve as both a visitor attraction and an educational resource. The response has been very positive. We are grateful to all those who have donated items as well as the many volunteers who have helped bring it to fruition.”