Museum of the Soldier

Covering conflicts from the Civil War to the war on terrorism, this museum in the small town of Portland, Indiana, showcases stories of service and sacrifice.

Although the Museum of the Soldier is housed in a repurposed Coca-Cola plant in a small town in rural Indiana, it gives a mighty and meaningful salute to the men and women who have served in every branch of the U.S. military throughout the generations.

Covering conflicts from the Civil War to the war on terrorism, the museum’s exhibits are specially designed to showcase true stories of service and sacrifice alongside an extensive and eclectic collection of artifacts. 

Museum co-founder Jim Waechter says practically every item on display is used as a catalyst for telling someone’s personal story, and the institution goes to great lengths to link individual biographies and photos to the artifacts in its collection.

One of the museum’s more interesting exhibits features Pvt. John J. Williams of the 34th Indiana Infantry. Not only was he the last Civil War soldier killed in action, but Williams also was buried three times — initially at a Texas fort, then at a national cemetery in Louisiana and finally in a family plot in Indiana.

Other highlights include the Congressional Medal of Honor that was posthumously awarded to Pfc. Melvin Newlin, a Marine who single-handedly forestalled a Viet Cong assault force; the uniform Air Force Maj. Richard Rice wore when flying a U-2 spy plane; and a World War II Gold Star Mother’s cape that honors four young soldiers who dutifully gave their lives for their country. 

Another visitor favorite is one of the four secure telephones that President George W. Bush used at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Nebraska, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Waechter adds that the phone has been authenticated and that the others are housed at the Smithsonian and the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas, Texas. 

510 E. Arch St., Portland, Indiana, 260/766-4235, museumofthesoldier.info