In Danville, Virginia, not far from the border of North Carolina, sits the American Armoured Foundation Tank Museum — a private collection so large, you will have to see it for yourself to believe its sheer magnitude.
With well over 100 armored vehicles, artillery pieces, and a seemingly endless supply of firearms and uniforms, it would take the average visitor a minimum of three hours to effectively tour the 330,000-square-foot facility.
It is a sprawling and fantastic journey through over 100 years of history.
But for the owner and former director of the museum, William Gasser, the facility is more than just the tanks and vehicles. It's about the people.
William began collecting military memorabilia and equipment when he was just 5 or 6 years old. Since then, his collection has grown by the thousands.
It has gotten so large that the “toy box” — or museum, in this case — has moved locations twice since being founded in 1981.
William told Independent Journal Review that for him and his family, every day at the museum is Memorial Day. To see a veteran's emotional reaction to the pieces around them is priceless compared to anything else:
"I think the finest compliment this museum ever got — and it's only happened a few times, but it's happened — is when a soldier cries. Nothing, nothing, is richer and enlightening than getting it right, right from the person who was there.
I've had every type of American you can imagine here. Every race, color, creed, age — it doesn’t matter. I can't remember a day there wasn't somebody here that was a veteran."
For example, his favorite piece in the entire museum isn't a rare tank or one-of-a-kind uniform, but a baby shoe that was hung around the gunsight of a tanker that served throughout Europe in World War II.
William and his family will continue to do this year what they always do: honor and cherish servicemen and women of the armed forces by preserving and protecting our collective history.
And it's no easy feat.
The massive facility is not government-funded. The only way they keep the lights on is through donations and ticket sales, and that is often not enough.
The roof is in desperate need of repair, and William and his family just don't have the funds to continue the upkeep on their own dime.
William told IJR that the goal of the museum is to honor all who have served:
“I don't remember the exact quote, but everyone knows it: 'those who forget the past are condemned to relive it.' American Armoured Foundation is here to honor all tank and cavalrymen from all nations and time periods. They all went to war thinking they were going to win and God was on their side.”
If you're ever in the Danville area, make sure you stop by and see William, Dan, Doug, and Natasha!
From the bottom of our hearts here at IJR, thank you to all of those who fought and lost their lives on behalf of the United States of America.
Your service will never be forgotten.