LAWRENCE, Ind. (WISH) — A small, unassuming building is rich with history in northeastern Marion County.
The site is a daily reminder of the sacrifice of Indiana military veterans and their families.
The Indiana Military Veterans Hall of Fame holds stories of dozens of people and artifacts dating back to World War I. The people who run the place say it is the only freestanding building of its kind in the nation.
The place has a purpose. “To honor our men and women in uniform,” said Russ Dowden, the chairman of the facility and a retired U.S. Army colonel.
Dowden spent 30 years serving the country. He’s part of the team that made the building a reality.
Some of those uniforms are displayed inside the building. More than 80 people have been inducted into the hall of fame, and many personal items adorn these cases, from combat photos to helmets from both World War I and II.
“We’re quite proud of it,” Dowden said Wednesday. “We’ve got three governors inducted so far; one president inducted, ol’ Ben Harrison himself. So far, we’ve got three women inducted into the hall of fame.”
Current service members are not eligible for induction, but the rules for veterans are simple. “You’ve got to be a resident of Indiana, born in Indiana,” Dowden said. “Have lived here for 8 years. Be honorably discharged from one of the services.”
The hope is that everyone who walks through the doors truly grasps how selfless and honorable our Hoosier veterans really are.
“Our history has to be our legacy,” state Rep. John Bartlett, a Democrat from Indianapolis, said Wednesday.
Bartlett helped establish the hall. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were raised and donated to build it. The doors opened in April 2018.
“Military folks lay their life on the line every day. They stand ready to die so that we can be free in this country,” Bartlett said. “To have something to honor our Hoosier veterans is just awesome.”
The hall of fame is open from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. weekdays at 5360 Herbert Lord Road.