In Wisconsin, one city is set apart from the rest of the state. It’s not a conglomeration of agricultural or industrial interests, nor does it play home to professional sports teams. It’s the state’s second largest town and has two separate Identities. It harbors the grandest college campus in Wisconsin, a College renowned for sports, partying and great academics. As of equal or greater importance, it also hosts government representatives from across America’s Dairy Land.
Anybody living in Wisconsin will have guessed, by now, that I’m writing about Madison or Mad Town. Some of the State Capital’s tourism allure, besides college athletics and concerts, are free attractions. Those include a tour of the Capitol building, Museums and even a free zoo. Today I visited one of the free Museums, which is directly across from the Capitol building.
The streets set near the Capitol building are confusing, as one way streets intersect with two ways and so on. However, if you can navigate your vehicle to the nearest open parking space, and pay the modest $2.00 an hour, your right in the thick of the city. I do find a parking spot, set on a side street, only a few blocks from my destination. There are parking garages, however I discovered that very few spots, inside said garages, were for the public.
I stroll along the Capitol building, witnessing something inspiring. I’ll be more specific at the end of the blog about my discovery. Meanwhile, I search for my chosen attraction as I’m not very familiar with Madison. Low and behold, as it is standing proudly on a street corner, I find the old building faster than I expected.
The Attraction today is the Wisconsin Veteran’s Museum.
Before I tell of what I find inside, I’d like to write a rather small disclaimer. I am a vet. Yet, sometimes I feel uncomfortable and, frankly, a tad guilty when someone thanks me for my service. Many people offer thanks in a tone, that I can guess comes from the media’s portrayal of vets, like I made some monumental sacrifice and have been abused ever since.
I get it, some served in wars and came back with life altering ailments. I’m not one of them. I served during a time of relative peace, between Desert Storm and 9/11, the Cold War had also ended. I served most of my enlistment in Alaska. So, my biggest battles were with frigid temps and homesickness. I didn’t join because I felt it was my patriotic duty. At the time, I needed a direction in life and the Air Force seemed a respectable path.
However, I am very proud of my time spent serving this country, even if I counted the days till I was a civilian again. I see the Wisconsin’s Veteran’s Museum as a fun tribute to all who served. I accept it as the State’s way of saying ‘thank you’ in a way that makes me feel good.
As I enter the building, two men greet me. They give me a brief overview of the museum, which is quite unnecessary. The museum has only two exhibit areas which feature the wars, in which Wisconsin participated, in a chronological format. I have to be honest, I was expecting more.
I walk through the Civil War, Spanish-American War and more. Although the museum is small, the artifacts are certainly interesting and preserved. As I investigate placards and wartime hardware, I feel as if these relics came straight from the factories. Guns, tools, uniforms, rations and more give a distinct impression of what day to day life was like during WWI and the Civil War. Also, with every war that is highlighted, Wisconsin’s ties and contributions are noted.
The exhibit area, like many museums, is darkened and fresh. There are scenes that captivate my imagination. Of the many exhibits in this first area, I find the Civil War scene of Soldiers firing through a cornfield interesting and telling.
I find my way to the second Exhibit room. Here, the exhibits are more awe-inspiring. Aircraft are suspended from the ceiling as tanks and other vehicles are present in replicated scenes of warfare. Everything from WWII to the War on terror is represented. Plenty of munitions, from guns to grenades, are also showcased.
As I am finished, I realize that this stop should be incorporated with other attractions, if one is to visit this part of Madison. I would suggest the Wisconsin Historical Museum along with this one. They, after all, are set across from each other. I only spent about half an hour in the Museum.
As I mentioned, something is going on at the Capitol. One of the sights you will only see in Madison, versus any other town in the State.
I leave the Museum to witness a fairly historic sight. High school students stand on the Capitol lawn, in recognition of one month anniversary of the Florida school shooting, protesting the gun violence that has affected schools across the nation. I’m impressed by the mass of children exercising their right to assemble peacefully, which, along with the right to bear arms, is also in our bill of rights.
It seems, as I’ve left a museum showcasing weapons that defended and preserved democracy, the irony of how similar weapons can tear it apart stands before me. This is a benevolent and upbeat crowd, encouraging speakers to continue voicing their frustrations.
No matter what side of the fight you’re on, you can’t deny that this passion is a good sign. It speaks of a new generation freely fighting for security and a better future. I applaud this gathering.
I leave Madison today feeling appreciated and, with the sight of exuberant children fighting for what they believe, a positive view of the future. A perspective I could have only gained in my State’s Capital.