John Brinkley served in the military just after the fighting ended in World War II. He never saw a battlefield. He never fired a single shot in combat.
But more than 65 years later, he’s hoping to carry on the legacy of those who sacrificed everything. It’s his way of giving back to those who fought when he was too young to join.
“So many young people today don’t realize that our freedom wasn’t free,” said the 85-year-old Ormond Beach resident, who joined the war effort in 1946, before President Harry Truman’s proclamation ending the hostilities but after Germany and Japan had surrendered.
For nearly a year, Brinkley has been on a mission to open the Veterans Museum & Education Center in Ormond Beach, but, so far, he’s had trouble finding a place to showcase his collection – which includes uniforms, a grenade and a Marine saber – on a permanent basis.
Earlier this year, city officials agreed to let Brinkley, a former Marine and U.S. Air Force member, present some military items in the atrium of City Hall. Mayor Ed Kelley said Ormond Beach has always looked for ways to honor the military. The city maintains a plaque that recognizes residents who served in World War II.
“Ormond Beach supports our veterans, and this is an everyday reminder of what many have sacrificed,” he said.
Some of the display includes four glass-encased, life-size mannequins representing branches of the military — some of which have been donated by others. Brinkley is also planning to honor a local veteran each month.
Recently, Brinkley said he was able to partner with the Halifax Historical Museum in Daytona Beach to have a World War II exhibit through Nov. 16. He also has military uniforms on display at the entrance of the Ormond Beach library until Sept. 8.
Kelley said Brinkley will likely be able to keep his military display at City Hall until he can find a permanent spot, an effort that the mayor believes will need the support of the community.
“Maybe we can get other veterans to take up that torch,” he said, adding the Ormond Memorial Art Museum and Gardens may be an ideal place for Brinkley’s collection to land.
Brinkley, who also served during the Korean War, says he knows he faces an uphill battle, but he’s driven to get the museum started so people don’t forget that freedom came at a price.
“It’s been a challenge,” he said. “We want to find a place where we can talk about pride and patriotism that’s associated with our country.”
Anyone interested in contributing to the Veterans Museum may contact Brinkley at 386-677-7416