There’s plenty to see and do in historic downtown Tarboro. Including one spot on West Church Street folks here are pretty proud of.
“Well it’s the biggest tourist attraction in the county,” said Donnie Hale, President of Edgecombe County Veterans’ Military Museum.
This is the Edgecombe County Veterans’ Military Museum.
“We’ll knock your socks off!” said Hale.
The museum opened in 2004 and is celebrating 15 years of honoring local military veterans.
“This museum has 138,000-plus artifacts, all from Edgecombe County,” said Hale. Born in, raised in, worked in, lived in or has ties to the county. Edgecombe County is a small county, population around 55,000. And the military population here is extraordinary.”
And the museum aims to honor all those who have served, dating back to the civil war.
“We have the largest portrait display in the United States. Eight-by-ten military portraits. We’re pushing right at 1,200,” said Hale.
And one of the faces you’ll see featured prominently is Gen. Hugh Shelton.
Shelton, who grew up in the speed area of Edgecombe County, served as chairman of the joint chiefs of staff under presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
“Gen. Shelton was the highest-ranking general or officer to ever come out of Edgecombe County,” said Hale. As a matter of fact, also the state of North Carolina. Upon one of the bays is Gen. Shelton’s final check from the 82nd Airborne. Remember, 82nd. His final paycheck was 82 cents. Imagine that! We have several hundred of his artifacts in here.”
Here, you’ll also see some of the military’s highest honors.
“We have more than 50 purple hearts, 30-plus bronze stars, 20-plus silver stars, two medals of honor, a Navy cross,” said Hale. We also have a library. Our library has over 6,500 books, papers, periodicals, and Gen. Shelton’s papers. And we’re very, very proud of those.”
They’re also proud of the first thing you see when you walk in the building, a fully restored World War II-era Jeep.
“This thing came in boxes,” said Hale. And we had a couple of guys, they were older fellas, they rebuilt it. Everything on it is original except one-quarter panel. And we drive it!”
And just outside the museum, across the parking lot, is the largest military mural in North Carolina.
“It’s probably up to four stories high,” said Hale. Absolutely beautiful.”
From murals to Jeeps to weapons, medals and more, there’s so much for you to see, all while remembering and honoring those who served.
“My favorite part? I don’t have a favorite,” said Hale. The whole thing is mine. I love it, I enjoy it. There’s so much. You just need to come and see what we have.”