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Sampson Vets Open Museum for Season

For some, a visit to The Brig museum at Sampson State Park is a chance to meet old friends and take a trip down memory lane. For others, it’s a painful journey into the past, perhaps for the first time, sometimes accompanied by grandchildren. But no one who visits the museum created by the Sampson WW2 Navy Vets goes away untouched.”The Sampson Museum is recognized as one of the finest small Navy museums in the country,” said Steve Bull, president of Sampson WW2 Navy Vets. Bull scours lists of surplus materials in military storage facilities and museums that are closing, to add to the award-winning displays at the museum. More than 6,000 association members, many of whom are in their 80s, are donating memorabilia that enriches the collection.This summer, thousands of school children, veterans and vacationers will come to the museum to view the displays, talk with vets and learn about those who defended our freedom in World War 2 and the Korean War. The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.Admission is free. A self-guided 45-minute tour is available. Group tours should call the museum at 315-585-6203. The Navy museum honors the 411,269 boys who became men at Sampson NavalTraining Station. During 8- to 10-week courses from 1942-46, they prepared to participate in the greatest conflict of modern times. Also in the brig is companion museum, operated by the Sampson Air Force Base Veterans Association, that honors the men and women of the US Air Force who trained at Sampson from November 1950 to October 1956 forservice during the Korean War. The museum includes displays, photos and artifacts and models of ships. The Air Force display features a flight simulator. A nuclear submarine periscope extends through the Navy museum ceiling. New this year: a diving mask from a Naval storage facility near Williamsburg, Va.Members of the Ladies Auxiliary sell T-shirts, hats and other souvenirs. Funds are used to beautify the museum grounds, including a memorial areathat features granite panels engraved with the names of Navy vets who trained at Sampson and lost their lives during the war. They have alsopurchased benches for the courtyard, allowing comrades to spend time in quiet conversation and reflection. Here and there in the courtyard, bricks are installed, bearing the name of a Sampson Sailor or veterans organization. The project is another way the vets raise funds for the museum. “It’s nice to see the younger generation come in and ask questions,” said Florence McKee of Medina. “We have some people who come here tofind each other. There are many tearful reunions.”Bill Finn of North Rose visited the museum several times. Finn said he has “good and bad memories” about the place where he trained in March1943. Of his Navy service, he said. “I don’t talk about it much.” But this time, Finn was accompanied by his grandson, Dan, 14. “I want to see what he went through,” Dan admitted. The grandfather and grandson walked slowly through the rooms, looking at the neatly laid out sailor’s sea bag, the display of fire fighting tools, the photos of the festiveevents and well known personalities who appeared in the Sampson auditorium. And then they came to the wall where vets had paid $125 each to display photos of the vessels they served on during the war. Finn paused, pointing to a landing craft. In a soft voice, with moist eyes, he pointed to the ship on which he had served, and began to tell his grandson about the horrible day that he and his buddies came ashore to fight the enemy in hand-to-hand combat. A trust fund, established by the veterans groups through the Friends of Sampson State Park, will ensure the existence of the museum for years tocome. Friends of Sampson State Park is a non-profit organization that works to promote and enhance the 1,905 acre state park located on Route 96A, about 12 miles south of Routes 5 & 20 east of Geneva.

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