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Yeager exhibit honors vets

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Adam Crumpler was a senior at Riverside High School when terrorists struck Sept. 11, 2001.

"He came home from school that day and said, 'I know exactly what I'm going to do," said Emma Johnson, his mother. "He wanted to fight for his country."

Crumpler, of Campbells Creek, was killed in action during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005. He was 19.

"If we don't tell their stories, once they're gone, they're gone forever," Johnson said. "Whenever I get a chance to talk about Adam, I take it. I'll always be proud of him."

She and her son are featured in "A Tradition of Service," a photo exhibit that's part of Glenville State College's West Virginia Veterans Legacy Project, unveiled Wednesday morning at Yeager Airport.

The project is a traveling photo and history exhibit that tells the stories of more than 200 of the state's veterans from World War II to the present.

World War II Medal of Honor recipient Woody Williams, along with other involved veterans and officials, praised the 36-piece photo exhibit's debut in the baggage claim area of Yeager Airport.

"Something we should never forget is that we are here because others can't be," Williams said.

Williams said the project is special because it not only honors those who have served, but the "gold star families" left behind -- like Shelly White.

White's three sons served in the military. Her son, Robert, was killed in Afghanistan in 2005. Her youngest, Andrew, died from complications related to post traumatic stress disorder after serving in Iraq, she said.

"They have passed away, but that doesn't mean their stories have to be gone with them," she said. "This exhibit is important to me because serving was important to them. The military was everything to my boys. I have to keep their memory alive."

Other upcoming facets of the project include the digitalization of memorabilia such as letters and articles associated with West Virginians' role in the military.

In addition, a documentary, book and play based on the project are also in the works and will debut around Veterans Day.

The preservation project is funded by a $350,000 grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services and is seeking additional funding from interested donors.

The photos in the exhibit were taken by Glenville alumnus Mark Romano, and are a preview of the upcoming book, "Heroes Among Us," based on the veterans at the center of the project.

"It's been an amazing experience to be able to record what they went through with pictures and in their own words," Romano said. "They did not have the opportunity to tell their stories. Now, even after these vets are gone, their stories will live on. It's a true legacy."

A TV documentary about the project will debut Nov. 3, prior to the Veterans and Military Ball at Glenville's Mollohan Campus Community Center Ballroom.

The photo exhibit will move to Glenville's art gallery for its grand opening Nov. 5. It is free and open to the public.

On Nov. 8 and 9, a play written by Bob Henry Baber, the project's director, will premiere and combines the veterans' interviews with original music. The play will be held at Glenville's Fine Arts Center and is free and open to the public.

For more information, contact Baber at 304-462-6382.

Those interested in contributing to the project can visit www.glenville.edu/veterans or call 304-462-6163.

Reach Mackenzie Mays at Mackenzie.mays@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5100.


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