One of the great truths in life concerning all the things we’ve collected and accumulated along the way, is that after we pass on, “You can’t take it with you.” It’s always a great service to those you love if you have taken care of your affairs long before your life is completed; and one of those actions is to organize, downsize and give away as much as possible while you still have the energy, determination and resolve to accomplish the task. I’m not ready to, “check out” yet by any means, but I’m at that point in my life – as I attempt to organize, catalog, scan and downsize my collections of, “stuff.”
In life we all have the habit of accumulating lots of possessions, and as we purchase and bring new things into our homes – something else has to leave in order to balance out the equation. Some of us are real pack rats and see the clutter of things as a type of security blanket – until we have to move – or go through someone else’s possessions after they pass on. Fortunately, folks that have been in the military or who have moved frequently know the process of downsizing prior to their next move, in order to save on the amount of packing and shipping costs that are required – plus the next house may not be as large as the last one.
Our family’s personal philosophy has always been to give things away – for free – once we’re finished with them; and not to sell anything second-hand – except for cars and houses of course. Since I’m not a wealthy person by any means and live essentially paycheck to paycheck like much of the rest of the world; by giving our things away that we have kept in excellent condition, we are able to be good stewards of the things that God has entrusted us with. To see someone else get use and value out of something that we used to own is very gratifying in itself. At the end of the day, no one really, “owns” anything in this life anyway.
I have collected all sorts of Air Force patches, squadron lithographs, squadron beer and coffee mugs, pictures and all sorts of items that I’ve tucked away over the years. I’m currently in the process of scanning everything that is scannable, so that I can share what I’ve collected with the rest of the world. After scanning these items I’ve decided to donate all of my memorabilia – everything in my Air Force collection – to a famous (in USAFE and NATO circles at least 🙂 ) historian that we all know by his nickname, “Tags” – because he started out collecting squadron nametags in the Hahn Air Base region of Germany. Today he has an extensive collection of USAFE and NATO squadron memorabilia – and I’m donating all of my items for free to Tags in order to add to his collection.
Historians always have a difficult time collecting artifacts, “after the fact” – especially in the area of military history. Families have shoe boxes of photos, letters, medals, trinkets and uniforms tucked away in closets, attics and basements from veterans that have long since departed our ranks. It is a difficult process for military historians to locate and convince families to part with these cherished items, so that they can be studied and added to museum collections around the world. History is so very important – especially military history – so that future generations don’t have to repeat the painful lessons of the past.
In light of this, I’ve decided to donate the things that I’ve collected over the years, to be part of Tags’ collection for the benefit of future generations. I’ve suggested to Tags that someday he might be able to open a museum of USAFE and NATO fighter squadron memorabilia for the world to see and appreciate. Slowly the story from the time period of WWI through the Korean War is being told as these veterans, “depart the fix” – and as they pass on, historians are able to eventually gain access to their memorabilia. The time period from the Vietnam War through the present day is not well documented yet, and in the age of email there are few handwritten letters and correspondence to be saved at all between families and their deployed family members. My wife and I exchanged handwritten letters daily during my time in the Gulf War – and the delay of news back and forth was easily 10 days. The Cold War years to many are just a blur, and the daily sacrifices throughout the years of the men and women who served during this period of history – on both sides of the wall – is quickly slipping away.
So if anyone has a collection of USAFE or NATO fighter squadron memorabilia tucked away in a closet, attic or basement that never sees the light of day, just send me an email – and I’ll gladly pass along your contact information to Tags as one option for you to consider. For all other military memorabilia, I suggest contacting a museum or military historian to add your items to the greater knowledge of history. In the end, as we learn from the past – just maybe – the world will be a better place for our children and for generations yet to come. 🙂