Anyone driving on Interstate 80 through central Nebraska has likely seen the military vehicles sitting outdoors, in front of the Heartland Museum of Military Vehicles at the Lexington exit. Each time we’ve passed it, I’d say we need to pull off one day and check it out.
That day came. And am I ever glad we finally pulled off the interstate to check it out.
The museum is home to about 100 military vehicles, from World War II through recent military action.
Jeeps from each branch of service are available for viewing. The museum encourages people to touch the vehicles, sit in them. Have fun while learning some military history.
Two vehicles that stood out were German Army vehicles from World War II. They were desert vehicles with the tan colors.
Almost every vehicle in the museum has been obtained from collectors within a 150-mile radius of Lexington.
The museum started in 1986, as a result of four men collecting military vehicles. Chris Larsen, Dave Smith, Terry Lauby and Al Martin restored military vehicles and drove them in parades. They kept getting encouragement to continue building the collection, so they scouted the region for more vehicles, according to the museum’s website.
As the team searched for more vehicles, they would find some tucked away of farms, used as windbreaks. Some of the vehicles were rusted out.
The current museum location opened in 1998. It consists of 16,000 square feet to display vehicles and other military-related items.
Tanks, trucks, jeeps, helicopters and ambulances are among the vehicles housed under the roof.
The museum is in the process of expanding a tribute to the television series “M*A*S*H. The CBS hit show about an Army medical unit during the Korean War was on the air for more than 10 years.
The exhibit has its own take on the famous mile marker used in the show. The Lexington marker has regional and nation cities listed with their miles from Lexington.
A military tent houses most of the displays, including a replica of Hawkeye Pierce’s martini machine.
Radar O’Reilly’s teddy bear sits on a chair with a martini glass.
A hospital scene is portrayed.
A helicopter is nearby that resembles the one used during the opening scenes of the show.
Apparently, they are still growing the exhibit. It’s a fine tribute to a great television series. I watched it from the beginning as a kid to the final episode as a grown-up.
The museum offers more military attractions than just vehicles – weapons, helmets, gas masks, cans of rations, etc.
A tribute to POWs/MIAs is located inside the museum. The table with an empty chair tells them we have not forgotten, nor will we stop working to bring them home.
Outside, about a dozen vehicles stand guard.
A Sherman tank stands out among the group.
I will say I was bummed that I did not take a photo of the display along the interstate, “Last Helicopter Out of Saigon,” which represents American soldiers boarding the chopper.
The Heartland Museum of Military Vehicles is well worth the visit. Plan on about an hour to tour everything.
For more information on the museum, please visit its website at http://heartlandmuseum.com/index.html.