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National Museum of Military Vehicles in Dubois receives national awards

The General George C. Marshall Gallery in the National Museum of Military Vehicles.
Carl Cote
The National Museum of Military Vehicles
The General George C. Marshall Gallery in the National Museum of Military Vehicles.

The National Museum of Military Vehicles has only been open for three years, but the site has consistently received recognition and is bringing visitors to Dubois from all over the world.

The travel review website TripAdvisor recently awarded the museum their “Traveler’s Choice” award for the second consecutive year, which puts the destination in the top 10 percent of global attractions on the site and is based on outstanding reviews from travelers.

Museum founder Dan Starks said there’s a good reason for those positive reviews.

“We offer a completely unique experience – there isn't another museum that covers all branches of the military across multiple wars,” he said.

The museum located just south of Dubois has opened in phases over the last three years. In August of 2020, the museum opened their World War II gallery and weapons vault. On Memorial Day weekend of 2021, the museum opened their Vietnam and Korean War galleries, then held their Grand Opening and unveiled the rest of their galleries on Memorial Day of 2022.

Starks, who personally funded the 140,000 square foot facility, said the museum is a “passion project” and aims to accomplish two big goals.

“One mission is to honor the service and sacrifice of veterans and their families to make every day Veterans Day, every day Memorial Day at the museum. The second major mission of the museum is to fill in some of the gaps that so many schools leave in the education of young people regarding the history of American freedom,” he said.

In 2022, the museum had about 40,000 visitors from all over the United States and outside the country. Starks said the location has seen a big influx of interest after they were featured on the premiere episode of the “Hidden Gems of America” television program in 2022.

“A lot of people have come to the museum, and the whole reason they came to Wyoming was because they saw us in that series and wanted to see the museum,” he said.

The museum was also declaredone of the ten best new attractions in the country in 2020 by USA Today and received theInnovation Award from the Wyoming Economic Development Association in 2022.

For the museum’s founder, one of the most important and powerful exhibits is the Vietnam War display. He said the exhibit aims to offer a healing space for Vietnam veterans to feel recognized for their personal sacrifices in a conflict that was so contentious in the country’s history.

“Being able to honor these veterans and being able to have their families see their sacrifice remembered and highlighted while they're all still alive is a pretty big deal,” Stark said. “And so we really do our best to indicate how tough the combat conditions were in Vietnam and then how successful Americans who served in Vietnam were on the battlefield, even though the war was so controversial at a political level.”

Starks said he hopes that visitors can connect to the museum’s stories and exhibits on a personal level.

“These stories all really impacted me personally as I learned about him over multiple decades. So what I wanted to do, I wanted to impart to others the same level of emotion, the same level of meaning that I got out of finding out about these parts of our history,” he said.

Starks said this desire is reflected in the curation of the museum’s exhibits, which combine vehicles and objects, audio, projections, animation, and computer displays to create an engaging experience for viewers.

“There's nothing dry or museum-like about the museum. It's more like going into some amusement park where you're completely immersed in the environment that's been created,” he said.

Starks said that several of the museum’s galleries were refreshed at the start of the summer, so that repeat visitors will have the chance to learn from new stories and exhibits. On the anniversary of 9/11, admission to the museum will be free.

Hannah Habermann is the rural and tribal reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. She has a degree in Environmental Studies and Non-Fiction Writing from Middlebury College and was the co-creator of the podcast Yonder Lies: Unpacking the Myths of Jackson Hole. Hannah also received the Pattie Layser Greater Yellowstone Creative Writing & Journalism Fellowship from the Wyoming Arts Council in 2021 and has taught backpacking and climbing courses throughout the West.
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