A visit to the North Louisiana Military Museum

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Vietnam War uniforms, equipment, and weapons on display at the North Louisiana Military Museum. (Robertson Collection)

Louisiana is a state that is filled with military history. Louisiana is also a state filled with veterans who have served this nation and have fought in the many wars and conflicts that have made history. Recently, my wife and I took a trip to Ruston to tour the North Louisiana Military Museum. On Aug. 5, the museum was hosting exhibits and displays from various military groups and re-enactor groups both inside and outside the museum building.

The North Louisiana Military Museum has historical memorabilia of war from the Spanish-American War to Desert Storm and into the current war on terror. Outside the museum, Ernie Stevens, the museum curator, has amassed 15 different rare military vehicles and aircraft that includes a RussianSA-2 missile, a M113 armored personnel carrier, M551 Sheridan tank and two aircrafts that every Vietnam veteran remembers, an A-4 Skyhawk jet and a UH-1 Huey helicopter. Then there is the little army mule that was used to haul supplies, water and ammo during Vietnam and other pieces of artillery and tanks. There was plenty to look at outside and on the day of the visit, several re-enactor groups set up displays from the Vietnam War. Jason Langlinais had a large display of items from Recon Team Louisiana MACV SOG (Vietnam Re-enacted) that these special force units used during the war. Recon Team Louisiana was feared by the Viet Cong and NVA troops for their courage and ability to take the fight to the enemy. Included in this display were items from the Montagnards, who fought alongside the Americans in Vietnam. Apache Troop 1/9 Cavalry (1st Cavalry Vietnam Re-enacted) had vehicle displays. During the day, they set up a large weapons demonstration. During the demonstration, those in attendance saw how the M-16 rifle and M-60 operated and were fired. One WWII veteran spoke of how fast the M-16 and M-60 could fire compared to the M-1 rifle and M-1 carbine of WWII that he had used during his service.

Inside the museum are thousands of artifacts. Every war has artifacts, uniforms and weapons depicting it. The museum has a very extensive weapons collection, from pistols (including a rear Liberator pistol of World War II), rifles, sub-machine guns, automatic rifles and machine guns. One display that caught my eye was the home-front display. It is set up just like a living room during WWII of a family who has someone in the service and is filled with personal items. It reminded me of how my grandparents’ home was set up with them having three sons in the service during the war. If you are interested in machine guns, there is one of the largest displays of military machine guns that I have ever seen with them affixed to the many various types of mounts to support them. In the Vietnam POW display, there are the uniform and personal items that American POW’s were issued by the North Vietnamese military.

Stevens and the directors of the North Louisiana Military Museum have worked for many years gathering up, cataloging and displaying the thousands of items in the museum. The museum is still gathering more interesting military artifacts to the large collection. The museum has many vehicles that need to be restored before being displayed and they have a program where the public can assist in the restoration process. This program is called the “Revive the Relics” and when you visit the museum, you can donate to this program. They can always use some help!

This museum has no admission charge and is located at 201 Memorial Drive in Ruston. For more information, call the museum at (318) 251-5099. Let me tell you, it is a short drive to Ruston and when you get there, you will have a truly exciting time viewing all the many displays and you will be greeted with true southern hospitality. Thanks, North Louisiana Military Museum, for the great day we had!