Military Vehicle Collector Hopes to Educate, Preserve Veteran Stories Through Interactive Museum
OREM, Utah — Two of Vernon Stout’s passions in life came together in a way that he hadn’t quite expected. Having lived in some 32 different countries as a youth while his father served in the Air Force, he said he grew up with a sense of patriotism. It’s something he said he found not so many teenagers had when he attended his last year of high school in Utah.
“I got to know a lot of people at Orem High,” Stout said. “And (I) realized that a lot of the people my age didn’t have an understanding of freedom and patriotism and the things that were going on the world to protect the freedoms that they had.”
Stout also grew up with a love for cars, and those two interests came together sometime after he got married.
“I always wanted a Dodge power wagon,” Stout said. “And so my wife actually found me a 1951 Dodge M-37, which is the military version of a power wagon.”
After restoring the vehicle, Stout said he made a discovery while driving it through town.
“An old man ran out of his house, he was 89 years old, and started chasing me down the street,” Stout said, explaining that the man asked if he could come for a ride. He agreed.
“He jumped on the rear tire, and got into the back of the truck, and then proceeded to tell me about how the last time he was in one of these vehicles was when he drove it across the 38th parallel at the end of the Korean War,” Stout said.
The ability to learn the stories of veterans through military vehicles became somewhat infectious. Stout also learned he could teach others through those stories he was able to hear.
“Every time I took out the vehicle, I had this opportunity to teach young kids, and listen to the stories of veterans, and the kids loved it,” he said.
Some 30 vehicles and thousands of pieces of wartime artifacts later, Stout has now formed a non-profit organization with a few dozen other collectors like him, called the Freedom Vehicles Association. The group sets up displays at various events each year.
“When we have a car sitting there when we have artifacts sitting there, all of a sudden these veterans start to open up, they start to tell their story,” Stout said. “This kind of opened up the way for me to have a venue to teach people about freedom.”
Stout’s vehicles are now packed away for the winter in various garages between two homes and a parking lot. He said his organization would ultimately like to have a place to keep the vehicles on permanent display, both for patriotic and educational purposes.
The plan is to call it Victory Park, USA. Stout said it would serve as a sort of adventure park, where visitors can see vehicles and artifacts from different wars and ideally help teach children about applications for important core school topics.
“Without science, technology, engineering and math, we wouldn’t have the technology to be able to defend ourselves,” Stout said.
Potential donors and volunteers can reach stout at email@example.com.
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