Museum honors past, looks to future

The Oregon Coast Military Museum (OCMM) is more than just a building with a lot of old stuff inside. It is a living tribute to the spirit and heart of Americans of all ethnicities and belief systems.

While it is indeed a storage space of a sort, since it houses uniforms, weapons and a jeep or two, it also holds the hope, fear and pain that the nation has endured to ensure that civil rights are secure and the country remains safe.

That is the message OCMM shares with residents and visitors at 2145 Kingwood St. in Florence.

For Executive Director Cal Applebee, OCMM is primarily focused on history, though the museum does have an eye to the present and the future. As such, OCMM has a number of upcoming events scheduled that are designed to not only educate but to entertain as well.

“In April, OCMM is hosting a quarterly meeting of the Southwest Oregon Museum Association at our facility,” Applebee said. “This is an informal association of nearly a dozen museums mostly along the Oregon coast, collaborating together to help each other address challenges and opportunities as nonprofits challenged with funding.”

Now nearing the end of its fourth year, the main reason OCMM remains vital is because of the people who have taken on the responsibility of sharing the important lessons learned through decades of sacrifice and bloodshed.

The volunteers who spend afternoons and weekends to help maintain exhibits and the extensive collection of artifacts on display do so because they feel it needs to be done.

For many residents of the Florence area, those lessons were learned in Korea, Vietnam and the Middle East. For others who served in Afghanistan or in places unknown and unnamed, the message remains the same — sometimes, freedom is not free.

The displays you can view at OCMM are a mixture of artifacts with personal stories behind them, pictures and artwork depicting military heritage, vintage military vehicles and a stunning array of life-sized dioramas created by a team of talented volunteers. These full-sized dioramas depict scenes from the trenches of World War I; Homefront, Pacific Theater and European Theater of World War II; MASH activity from Korea; and a jungle scene straight out of Vietnam.

The museum is open Wednesday to Sunday from noon to 4 p.m., though school and community groups can schedule tours at other times. Entry is $5, though groups of 10 or more pay $4 each. Members and kids 12 and under are free.

Another of OCMM’s high-profile events is held during the Wings & Wheels Fly in & Car Show at the Florence Municipal Airport.

“Our annual anniversary celebration is coming up July 6th, and it is being held to celebrate our fourth year of successful operation,” Applebee said. “The celebration will be held in conjunction with the annual Wings & Wheels, and this will be the third year that our U.S. Air Force jeep will be leading convoys around the airport during the airshow.”

At the end of each year, OCMM also plans the Florence Festival of Trees at Florence Events Center.

For more information on the Oregon Coast Military Museum, call 541-902-5160, stop by during open hours or go to