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|Big celebration planned at aviation museum|
On any given day, people from all over the world walk into Monroe's Aviation and Military Museum of Louisiana to honor local soldiers who fought and died for their country.
This Memorial Day weekend, the Aviation and Military Museum of Louisiana's staff hopes local residents will stop by to learn more about the soldiers from northeast Louisiana, many of whom never returned home.
An antique car show will be held from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday with refreshments and activities for the entire family. The car show is being held to draw local residents to the facility where they will be encouraged to tour the museum to see the changes that have taken place over the years.
Gen. Claire Lee Chennault's granddaughter, Nell Calloway, has been involved with the aviation museum since its inception. She is now the museum's director.
She's amazed at how far the museum has come and is proud to say that people from all over the world have traveled to Monroe to visit it.
The Friends of the Aviation and Military Museum of Louisiana is now beefing up its efforts to prompt more local people to visit the facility, Calloway said.
"The people of Monroe are the ones who don't really seem to know it's here, but we've been increasing our publicity," Calloway said. "We've started having more field trips from schools and we're trying to get more kids interested because if they have fun they'll want to come back and bring their parents."
The museum's curator, Jerry Smith, is currently working on repairing some of the old airplanes outside the museum to have a walk-through display of those planes.
"Once we get that here, more people will stop … people love to look at airplanes," Calloway said.
Museum representatives also want to raise about $7 million to add a Chennault hanger, which would be built beside the facility. It would resemble one of the hangers that once stood at Selman Field where the Army Air Corps held a training school during World War II.
The Legislature also is considering changing the museum's name to the Chennault Aviation and Military Museum in honor of Calloway's famous grandfather.
That is being done at the request of Secretary of State Jay Dardenne, who wants to attach people's names to several of the state's museums.
At first, Chennault's relatives were against the idea.
"He approached our family and we had some reservations because mother and I have been with this museum since its inception, and we didn't want to take away from all those people out there who are heroes and just make it about Chennault," Calloway said. "It's not about Chennault; it's about all the wars, and all veterans."
Dardenne eventually convinced Chennault's relatives that by having the Chennault name on the museum, it will have an added international draw.
Calloway said that no matter if people travel from China or a few miles from their home, they will walk away impressed with their experience at the museum.
"People are always amazed at the amount of things we have on display here," Calloway continued. "And that's what we want … we want people to come here and learn about all the heroes from Monroe and from around our area."