Veterans Museum Relives Alaskan Stories
Exhibits commemorate events from the Aleutian Campaign during World War II to Operation Desert Storm.
After more than 30 years of service in the U.S Air Force, Col. Suellyn Novak has a new mission: to share the stories of the military men and women who served on the Last Frontier.
There are plenty.
“The story of the Shenandoah,” she said, standing in the entryway of the Alaska Veterans Museum. “Do you know the final shots of the American Civil War were fired in Alaskan waters?”
As the museum’s executive director, Novack said there are a few items that stand out for her, including a woman’s nightgown and robe sewn from the parachute of an airman shot down during World War II.
After the war ended, Novak said he commissioned an Italian seamstress to sew the gown for his wife back in the United States.
“That to me is just, that’s a romantic story,” Novak said.
She said the museum is based on stories like that.
Exhibits commemorate events from the Aleutian Campaign during World War II to Operation Desert Storm, highlighting the thousands of Alaska men and women who served.
“I’m one of the few that got to live the dream,” Novak said. “That’s the beauty of this museum, because this museum tells each individual soldier, sailor, airman, Coast Guard, Marine and Merchant Marine’s story, and that’s why this is important.”
She calls it a labor of love, and said the museum strives to support Alaska’s military men and women in other ways, too.
“We just replaced six medals and a Presidential Unit Citation ribbon for a gentleman who died in September,” Novak said. “It was quite a moving moment for his wife.”
Still, she said it’s an uphill journey.
“There are days we sit here, there’s no one coming in,” she said, gesturing around the empty museum. “We had one day last week where there were nine people in here.”
Since the museum officially opened its doors in the Fourth Avenue Marketplace last April, Novak said it’s struggled to keep them that way. Ultimately, she said they hope to construct a standalone building dedicated to memorializing Alaska’s servicemen and women
“We’ve got one on the books that will truly be what Alaska deserves,” she said. “With the military history we have here, we deserve a really big, nice, world class museum.”
She said it's a goal worth fighting for.