Local group Lest We Forget, museum make sure veterans aren’t forgotten

Local group Lest We Forget, museum make sure veterans aren’t forgotten

Image Credit: Aaron Dorksen

“Lest we forget” is an expression that means it should not be forgotten.

It’s also the aptly named local group led by Greg Long, Dave Beckett and Richard Winkleman, who are doing their best to remember military veterans past and present.

The Lest We Forget group meets every other month at a private warehouse in Wooster, which also is the site of the Long Family Military Museum.

Long, a retired certified public accountant, was a lieutenant colonel in the 83rd Army Reserve Command. He had already been working on setting up his family museum for several years when Winkleman approached him in 2020 about forming a veteran support group.

Winkleman, a retired Army Brigade sergeant major who lives in Lakeville, had barely finished asking the question when Long answered "yes."

Fast forward to the morning of March 25 and about two-dozen locals were gathered for a Lest We Forget meeting. They enjoyed camaraderie, talked about ways they can make a difference for other veterans and listened to guest speaker Dan Lutz, Wayne County prosecutor, discuss Ohio’s upcoming changes for the concealed carry weapon law.

Afterward, several members walked through the adjoining museum. Because the museum is private, Long doesn’t publicly list the address.

Most in attendance were veterans, but all are welcome. Museum visits can be arranged by appointment.

Winkleman, whose son Damon G. Winkleman was killed during the war on terror in 2009, is thrilled with the way Lest We Forget and the Long Museum have come together.

“The museum keeps the perspective of the overview of the military going,” Winkleman said. “The group gives us a chance to bond. We had components from all of the services here today. We get together and share our different experiences, and everybody benefits.”

Beyond just camaraderie, Lest We Forget is a service group.

Projects they’ve done in conjunction with other local organizations have included helping the area’s homeless vets, shut-ins and those in care facilities; working with local funeral directors to provide American flags for veterans; and providing support boxes for service men and women who are deployed and stateside.

Long, the treasurer and a veteran committee member for the Wooster Rotary, linked the Rotary Club with Winkleman to construct a Battlefield Cross at the Wayne County Veterans Memorial in Wooster Cemetery in 2020.

They followed that up with a Gold Star Family Memorial and have helped with other maintenance at the cemetery since.

“The concept behind remembering our veterans is that in a lot of cases they end up in care centers or they end up by themselves in their homes, and this is just a remembrance and saying ‘thank you’ for your sacrifices,” Winkleman said. “A lot of individuals really don't understand what a person goes through when they're in the military. They watch it on television and they think that's what it is when in reality it’s not.”

Long began trying to find ways to help with the problem of veteran suicide while he was on the Rotary committee.

“Working with Wink and Dave on Lest We Forget, it’s really growing what we’re doing for veterans,” Long said. “We’re up to more than 50 veterans in our group. We really are just getting our sea legs on this thing, figuring out our purpose to honor and help veterans as we go forward.”

Touching history

If you schedule a tour of the Long Family Military Museum, make sure to set aside at least an hour. In truth, a person could spend a half or whole day there.

The sheer number of items, quality and how they’re meticulously arranged and labeled is magnificent.

The museum is built around a 1942 Willys Jeep, which Milton Long, Jr. purchased in 1994 and Greg inherited following his dad’s death in 2009.

Also in that front room is a memorial to remember brothers Albert “Eddie” Ward and Dick Ward, who were killed in World War II within six months of each other. They were both Wooster High graduates.

Beckett, who was in the 447th MP Company, focuses his volunteer work on the museum. The display that's most important to him is the one honoring the Ward brothers, and he's done extensive research of their lives.

“I like taking people through so that they have a better understanding of what it was like for us,” Beckett said. “A lot of people haven't served, and we try to give them a sense of what it was like, what some of this stuff was. We hope this museum gets people interested to learn more about their own family's military history."

In addition to Greg Long serving, his grandfather Milton Long served during World War I. His father, Milton Long, Jr., was in the 14th Armored Division, and his father-in-law, Ralph Jones, fought in the Sixth Infantry Division in World War II. Jones founded Wooster Glass in 1947.

Full-sized mannequins display the actual uniforms worn by Greg’s late family members. Everyday items range from walkie talkies that look oversized by today’s standards to a P-38 can opener that was carried on dog tags and used to open C-ration cans.

Almost all of the items in the museum belonged to Greg Long or his family members, but he has started to accept some donations of items the museum didn’t have.

A book could be written just on the story of Long and his relatives. One of the most interesting museum displays honors Milton Long.

“My grandfather is remembered (with a mannequin displaying his Army uniform) sitting on his motorcycle in the museum,” Greg Long said. “He was the Indian motorcycle dealer here in Wooster.

“He knew how to repair them, and they had hundreds of Indian motorcycles in World War I, which they used like we use radios today. They took messages out. He was stationed in Chillicothe, Ohio and spent the whole war repairing Indian motorcycles.”

After Greg Long’s dad passed away in 2009, the bulk of the family’s military items were packed away in boxes in his brother’s barn in Columbus.

“My brother started bringing it up to Wooster, and we put it in this warehouse, which became the museum,” Greg Long said. “Other stuff was sitting in attics or basements. I thought, 'It’s stupid to have all this stuff sitting in boxes.' So I started setting tables up. It’s taken a lot of time, but it’s been worth it.”

The rest is history, as they say, which locals can view, discuss, touch and pick up.

Lest we forget.

The Lest We Forget veteran group can be followed on Facebook. Email Greg Long for more information or to arrange a tour of the museum at greg@woosterly.com.