The National Vietnam War Museum is a major tourist destination for the Mineral Wells area. The museum mission statement is – To promote an understanding of the Vietnam Era, while honoring those who served.
It is a beautiful site that showcases equipment like helicopters, boats, military trucks, a memorial garden maze, and a meditation garden. The latest addition to the property will be an indoor gallery for all to enjoy.
Construction on this new building began in 2018. Phase 1 may be completed this year with 18,000 square feet of space. The new building will showcase art based on Vietnam War Era history. There will be paintings, dioramas, murals, large military war crafts, and much more. The museum is to open in phases to allow more space to fully showcase how vital this time period was to many vets and our nation. There are 3 more phases planned to add more exhibits as needed.
Phase 1 specifications as listed in the Development Plan include:
- 2-story building
- 10,000 square feet on ground floor
- Elevator to the second floor
- 8,000 square feet on second floor
- Three exhibits in Phase 1 (can be rotated)
- Gift shop
- Covered porch at the entrance
Construction of this new museum gallery building has been funded entirely by generous donations. In fact, all museum updates and additions have been funded with donations since the Museum opened to the public in 2007.
The National Vietnam Museum got started in 1997 and incorporated as a 501(c)(3) in 2002. Development was slow at first and they opened to the public in 2007 with a meditation garden. Since that time they have added to the location regularly to commemorate Vietnam veterans and their experiences. Camp Holloway, the Navy Garden, a reflection garden, and a Huey Helicopter on a 20ft pole have been added. These exhibits are wonderful attractions for veterans, history buffs, and families to enjoy and learn from.
Jim Messinger, Capt. US Army (ret.) is the Treasurer for the museum and oversees all new projects. He graciously agreed to be interviewed for this story. Jim has been instrumental in making the museum what it is today. Messinger, a Vietnam veteran who piloted helicopters while serving in Vietnam still enjoys flying to this day. “I had a good feel for flying the helicopter. It is the most fun you can have in the world.”… “I was in the army for twenty-four years and I loved it. Every minute of it”.
As a child Jim knew he wanted to be a military pilot. Messinger recounts a memory from his childhood, “I wanted to be Audie Murphy. Oh, I knew what the infantry did. I knew what happened in the war. I knew everything about the military. I was in an organization called Civil Air Patrol my entire teenage years.” He wore his Air Force uniform with pride.
After returning home Messinger returned to college. Jim earned B.S degrees in Mathematics and Education, and both master’s and PhD degrees in Management Science. He decided to give back to future generations by becoming a professor at Weatherford College where he has taught for twenty-four years.
Jim always supported the idea of a Vietnam era history museum for Mineral Wells and jumped at the first opportunity to help. When the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association founded a chapter locally Messinger said, “ I heard they wanted to do a museum and I jumped up and got to the committee meeting…”. From there he hit the ground running by working with sponsors who were willing to help, resulting in the wonderful addition to our community the museum is today. Jim now oversees all projects in addition to his duties as Treasurer for the museum.
Jim tells a story of a woman he has never met and who has never seen the museum. She is passionate about our soldiers and their time spent serving our country. “Well, this lady calls me from Illinois a couple of years ago and wanted to know more about donating to the museum. And we spent 30 minutes on a phone. And she was thinking about what she wanted to do. Then she called me up and said, ‘Well, Jim, I decided. I want to donate $100,000.00.’ Wow! I had never met the woman. I didn’t know where she came from, she just called me up.” Many donations happened like that. He is enormously proud to soon be opening up a building that will be loved by the community and honors our veterans.
There will be a fundraiser to help pay for the finishing touches for the new indoor gallery. It will be held on March 27, 2021, hosted at the Crazy Water Hotel. The night will begin at 5:30 with a cocktail hour and silent auction. Dinner will commence at 6:00. The menu will include beef tenderloin, mashed potatoes, green beans, salad, bread, and lastly delicious deserts. The venue’s entertainment for the evening will be Langdon Center Big Band. It will be a night to remember. Make plans to be there and help support this wonderful space in the Mineral Wells Community!
Writer | I graduated from Weatherford College with an Associates in Art, focusing on history, creative writings, sociology, and humanities. Experience in child development, client care, and runs local Spoken Word Poetry group for young teens.