Standing atop the lush green grass in front of Chinook Winds Casino a lone sentinel mannequin dressed in an olive drab green Army uniform stands representing the US Infantry soldier of the Vietnam era, part of a traveling collection known as the Celebration of Honor.
Created 18 years ago by friends and service veterans Dana Foley and Ted Henderson to honor and connect with other veterans, they travel at their own expense to share their collection of military armaments. Inside the travel trailer is a miniature military museum. Shelf after shelf is neatly arranged with different types of weapons, ranging from mortars to an M2 Browning .50 caliber machine gun.
“We started at a car show with just one military truck,” Foley said. “At our last stop in Madras there were over 6,000 people in attendance. And in Lincoln City The Confederated Tribe of Siletz Indians really rolled out the red carpet for us.”
The display has grown to include not just weaponry but an impressive display of flags used in Honor Guard ceremonies.
“It’s kind of up to us older guys to keep it going. The younger vets are busy raising families.” he said.
When asked if they get any negative reactions from visitors, Henderson replied:
“I tell people that might be hesitant to approach that these aren’t weapons of war, they’re weapons of freedom.”
The Celebration of Freedom continues at Chinook Winds Casino from 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. through Saturday.