By: Duane Blankenship | Category: In Our Communities | Issue: November 2018
The Military History Museum was founded in 1989 by retired Air Force Colonel Robert Powell. He passed away in 2015 at the age of 94. Powell joined the Army as a private in 1940 and flew small planes for personnel transport and spotting during World War II. He later became a glider pilot and in 1944 participated in the aerial invasion of the Netherlands known as Operation Market-Garden.
At the end of WWII, Colonel Powell transferred to the U.S. Air Force and continued his service throughout the Korean War. He retired from the Military in 1966. Powell and others founded the Memorial Veterans Association and committed themselves to maintaining a deep respect for our country’s military history.
Powell obtained non-profit 501(c3) status for the Museum in 2006 and for several years it was located at various locations in Tulsa. With its growing number of military artifacts, it found its permanent home in Broken Arrow in 2012. The City offered the old Community Hospital as a permanent home for the collection. It was opened on Veterans Day in 2013. With the growing collection, many artifacts sill cannot be displayed.
Clarence Oliver, long-time Superintendent of BA Schools and military veteran, introduced Brigadier General Tom Mancino (RET) to Colonel Powell when help was needed moving the collection to Broken Arrow.
Mancino is a longtime resident of Broken Arrow and in 1989 he began full-time employment with the Oklahoma Army National Guard. He retired in 2005. The General served 39 years in the National Guard and was the first National Guard General Officer to command troops in a combat zone since Korea. He is President of the Board of the Military History Center.
In 2015, Owasso Public Schools Superintendent Amy Fichtner was instrumental in renaming the Museum “The Military History Center.” General Mancino says, “Amy’s vision better identifies the true scope of who we are, what we do and where we want to take the Center. Most people visit a museum once and never return. We want to educate visitors and draw them back time and time again.”
Mancino extends his heartfelt gratitude to all volunteers, docents, counselors, board members, and others who contribute to the Center’s success. Three volunteer counselors see three to four veterans each day. “We offer community services making us more than just a fabulous museum,” added Mancino. “BAHS students enrolled in History of War classes utilize our magnificent Military Library. We have also received grants from the BA Foundation and Native American organizations for special displays.” The Military History Center presents special programs annually including Military History Through the Ages and the Annual Salute to Veterans Concert which pays homage to veterans and those on active duty.
Trip Advisor rates the Military History Center #3 of things to do in Broken Arrow and it is the only destination listed that received a 5-Star rating. There are over 2000 artifacts on exhibit at the Center and it is a popular attraction for locals and visitors. When you visit the Center, be sure to tell your friends about this outstanding attraction.
Blankenship graduated from the University of Oklahoma and has enjoyed a lifetime career in advertising. He started his own advertising business in 1993 and enjoys creating graphic art and writing. Hobbies include hunting, fishing and pencil drawings. Duane and his wife, Janice, have been married over 50 years and are active in their church and community. He has been a contributing writer for Value News/Values Magazine since 2005.
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