By Conrad Dudderar
The Yukon Veterans Museum celebrated its 10th year at an anniversary gala Oct. 19 at the Dale Robertson Center, 1200 Lakeshore.
About 200 attended the event to support Yukon’s military museum at 1010 W Main. The museum – which features hundreds of historic displays from all U.S. armed forces – has shared space inside the American Legion Post 160 building since 2016.
The museum opened in 2013 at the Yukon Museum and Arts Center (Old Central School).
The Yukon Veterans Museum honors those who served in the U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, U.S. Merchant Marine, National Guard, and Space Force.
The 10th anniversary gala featured a keynote address by U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jonathan McDonald.
Recruitment has become more challenging because younger people today don’t know anyone who has served in the military, according to McDonald.
He shared polling data that shows just 33% of people ages 18-29 have family members who served in the military. Compare that to 79% in the 50-64 age group.
McDonald has spent 18 years in the U.S. military after receiving his commission in 2005 through the Reserve Officer Training Corps.
He has served as an intelligence officer among a variety of leadership positions in the Air Force, although admits he don’t like flying. He also was part of a base defense group in Haiti.
During his presentation at the Yukon Vets’ gala, McDonald told the story about his family members who have served in every U.S. military conflict since the French/Indian War.
“The military is just a family business,” he told the audience.
“There’s something about the bond (the develops) with someone else who served.”
The guest speaker encouraged U.S. military personnel and their families to save letters, pictures and other artifacts about their service.
“Hold onto them,” McDonald said, and “pass on your story” to future generations.
“Be proud of organizations like this museum that are telling the stories.”
Lt. Col. McDonald has been deployed to Haiti, Afghanistan and Qatar in support of Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, Unified Response, Inherent Resolve, Freedom Sentinel, New Dawn, and Resolute Support.
In closing his 20-minute Yukon talk, the gala’s keynote speaker shared a quote from President Ronald Reagan: “Freedom is never more than one generation from extinction.”
“Your story is just one generation from extinction – so please tell it,” McDonald said.
Yukon Veterans Museum Board Member Ron Edmonson led a POW/MIA Remembrance Ceremony that included a moment of silence.
“We call them our comrades, our brothers, our sisters, our friends,” Edmonson said of military personnel lost in combat. “Don’t let them be forgotten.”
Board Member Jerry Icenhower then asked U.S. veterans and active duty servicemembers to stand and be recognized in groups according to their military branch.
“Let’s give everybody a big round of applause,” Icenhower said.
Yukon businessman Ken Wilkins won the 50/50 raffle, then promptly donated his $165 prize to the Yukon Veterans Museum.
Other gala highlights included the cutting of the museum’s 10th birthday cake by founder/curator Lt. Col. (ret.) Rick Cacini and Lt. Col. McDonald, live music by the Community Chorus of Central Oklahoma, performance of “Taps” by trumpeter Larry Taylor, a silent auction, and catered meal.
The gala concluded with Yukon Veterans Museum Board Member Robert “Bob” Reynolds accepting an honor quilt from Fort Reno’s Daughter of the American Revolution (DAR). The annual presentation was made by the chapter’s vice regent, Leslie Dietrich.
Funds raised from the Oct. 19th gala “will keep the museum open another year,” Cacini said afterward.
“We wish to thank our sponsors, donors and all attendees,” he said. “They supported those who have given for their country.”
The Yukon Veterans Museum is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturday. Tours are available outside those hours.
The museum hosts a service day for Veterans Administration benefits from 9 a.m. to noon on the second Saturday of the month.
For more information, call (405) 265-2565.