By Johnny Jackson
Bob VanDunk, of McDonough, is attempting to bring the community together under an effort to honor the nation's veterans, while educating youths.
VanDunk says he wants to make use of the historic, 1864 Nash House at Henry County's Nash Farm Park in Hampton. The retired U.S. Army master sergeant wants to turn the house into a Veterans' Museum, complete with artifacts and literature about the nation's military past and present.
"I see this as, number one, making Nash Farm a national tourist attraction for Henry County," VanDunk says. "What better place for this to be than on a battlefield, and it's educational. I think that would be three of the best things that could happen for Henry County. Our veterans would appreciate it."
VanDunk served 28 years in the Army. He was also involved in acquiring the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall, which made a weekend stop in McDonough in June.
"With the Vietnam Wall coming here, you realize there is not a historical Veterans' Museum," he says. "Henry County was setting the standard for this. Why not have a Veterans' Museum for what people have done for this country and also what the eras were. It would be educational for everybody."
The all-veterans museum, projected to be complete within the next year, would include artifacts and literature, from and about, various eras of the nation's history, beginning with World War I and including present-day conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"We did have some plans at Nash Farm to renovate the house," says Tim Coley, director of Henry County Parks and Recreation. "We thought it would be a lot more cost effective to make it useful - to bring in all these military items and create a museum."
Coley says Nash Farm Park has become increasingly popular for events, as well as among everyday visitors in Henry County.
"It can be historical, and it's something that can be educational for people," he says. "Instead of just reading about different things, they'll be able to look at it and see it first-hand. It's a tribute to our military and an honor to us to be able to keep this stuff."
Renovations to Nash Farm Park would not be unlike those done to Heritage Park in McDonough, according to Coley. He says the cost of renovation by his department would be minimal, and that most artifacts and services would be donated and voluntary.
VanDunk is in the process of having Nash House certified through the military. The 2,000-square-foot house is located at 4361 Jonesboro Road, on the 204-acre Nash Farm Park in Hampton, which is also in the process of applying for the National Register of Historical Places.
When opened, the museum would be free and open to the public.
"We're looking for people, who, if they have uniforms or military paraphernalia, would like to donate or loan them to the museum," says VanDunk.
VanDunk says he has, so far, received several inquiries from people ready and willing to donate to the museum.
"It's coming together," he says. "I'm looking at seven months, maybe eight months having it open."
Museum donations can be made through the Henry County Parks and Recreation Department by calling (770) 288-7300.