This rare item, along with hundreds of others, was donated for display at the Sparks Museum for their “Salute to the Military” exhibit, which held its grand opening Friday on Victorian Avenue. The exhibit is composed purely of donations made by community members in Washoe County, many of whom served in the military, and features several unique items.
Sparks Museum Executive Director Anthea Humphreys said the exhibit is the culmination of a longtime partnership with the community and displays items ranging from the Civil War up to the War on Terrorism.
“It has taken a couple of months of hard work and it is all volunteer labor, donations and collecting all the various pieces from different people,” Humphreys said. “It’s a lot harder than having an exhibit that is already pre-arranged. This has literally been put together based on what people donate to us.”
Items such as Japanese rifles with bayonets, a World War II Kamikaze flag and American uniforms worn during the Spanish American War highlight a few of the hundreds of items donated to the Sparks Museum. The museum also partnered with local Boy Scouts troop 441 to build an authentic Vietnam-era bunker complete with sandbags, a machine gun and a radio transmission unit.
Barbara Young, a member of the board of directors for the museum, worked closely with the community in acquiring the items for the display and said the change in weaponry of the various wars is on display.
“We have a fascinating collection of weapons here, from tank missiles to infrared warheads that have been used in the global war on terrorism,” she said. “It’s really interesting to meet the families of soldiers gone by and those still alive when they bring in photos and medals and flags. It is quite enjoyable to work with the community learning about those items.”
Young said being able to bring in the “Salute to the Military” exhibit was a great pleasure for her and other museum directors to honor the sacrifices military soldiers have made throughout history.
“The military is a very important segment of our society. They give up their lives and own families to provide us freedom in America,” Young said. “Over the years, some of the military have been forgotten. It’s the least we can do to give a small token of tribute to the military.”
When asked about some of the rarest items, Young mentioned the cement piece of the Berlin Wall that was brought back to the Sparks community when the wall was destroyed in 1989. Though it was difficult for her to choose a favorite, she said the “blood chit” is one of the most interesting items she had come across in setting up for the museum.
“(The blood chit) is a flag with half a dozen different languages saying, basically, please help me get back to the United States. If you return me to a U.S. military person you will be rewarded,” she said. “Pilots carried these so if they were shot down at least they had a chance to not be a prisoner of war.”
Humphreys also found it difficult to choose a favorite item but finally pointed to a framed American flag that was donated by longtime Sparks resident John LaVoy. She said three generations of the LaVoy family have served in the military and the flag inside the frame had been flown over the U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon and various Marine Corp. memorials.
The exhibit will be open through Nov. 17 at the Sparks Museum and Cultural Center, located at 814 Victorian Ave. in Sparks.