Florida on a Tankful: Veterans Memorial Center in Merritt Island

By Scott Fais, Feature Reporter
Last Updated: Friday, May 26, 2017, 5:11 AM EDT

On the banks of the Banana River awaits a story of dedication on the horizon. 

"We went from one room, 1,000 square feet in the old building to 6,000 square feet,” Dean Schaaf, the president of the Veterans Memorial Center said proudly.

The museum in Merritt Island embodies the spirit of Memorial Day year 'round.

"People come in and donate more items and say, 'I've got this in my attic and you don't have this, would you like it?'" Dean said of how the center expands its collection.

Dean Schaaf is a retired veteran himself.

"I was drafted in 1965,” he says of a government career that spanned decades.

The Naval Flight Officer served his country twice, with a second tour with NASA as a landing recovery manager for the Space Shuttle program.

His “retirement career” is preserving the legacy of those who gave so much.

A recent expansion has changed what used to be a one-room exhibit.

"We started building this in January 2016 and we finished in July,” Dean said. This Memorial Day will be the first in the new space.

Starting with the American Revolution, continuing through the Civil War, up to the War on Terror, there are items from centuries of not only battle, but also of peace time.

Find patches, weapons, uniforms and relics from battles that reshaped American history and world power, all presented in a casual way.

"They can flip switches, pull circuit breakers, play like they are flying it,” Dean said.

No visit is complete without stopping out on the front porch to take a ride in the UH1 Iroquois “Huey" helicopter that you can get behind the cockpit.

"We try to reach all ages, from youth through the 100-year-old veteran,” Dean said.

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