Breckenridge Texan

Extensive Military Museum exhibit on display at Breckenridge Fine Arts Center

Extensive Military Museum exhibit on display at Breckenridge Fine Arts Center
February 07
10:44 2021

By Carla McKeown/Breckenridge Texan

When Ricky Stober shows visitors around his RWS Military Museum exhibit, he somehow manages to combine a quiet reverence with unbridled enthusiasm for every item in the display.

The mobile museum, which includes U.S. military uniforms, medals, letters from the warfront and more, is being featured at the Breckenridge Fine Arts Center through June 15 in the East Gallery. The exhibit will be on display for two typical BFAC rotations, and Stober said he will update the presentation with some additional items in about two months.

The RWS Military Museum exhibit at the Breckenridge Fine Arts Center includes hundreds of items, including the uniform and other items from Maj. Gen. John Freund, who was commander of the 199th Light Infantry Brigade in 1967. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

Stober, a 2018 graduate of Breckenridge High School, is the owner and founder of the museum, and he knows the history of just about every one of the hundreds of pieces in the collection – every pin, every patch, every picture.

“I look at saving this stuff as very important for the future,” Stober said. “If this stuff is gone, how else are you going to share the story of the veteran? Each of these pieces shares a part of the story of the veteran, if not all of it, depending on what you have.”

As he shows the exhibit, Stober moves from display to display, explaining the most important or interesting piece in the case. But, don’t worry if he’s not around when you visit the exhibit because most of the displays have information cards that explain the history behind the items.

Stober first became interested in military history when he was just a young child, enthralled by the stories he heard from his grandfathers and other relatives. He started the collection that would eventually become the museum when he was 10 years old and his great-uncle gave him a World War I German Wound Badge that another relative had brought back from Germany.

Over the past decade, he has amassed a collection of military items, from World War I through today. Most of the items are from the World War II through Vietnam War eras and have been carefully preserved and often restored, as necessary.

“Each piece really tells the story of the veteran,” Stober said. “Each piece is a major part in saving, not only the veteran’s story and the veteran’s name, but really just the sacrifices that each veteran and soldier made in the war. It’s vital to share each piece and to really preserve this, because who knows how long this stuff will last after I’m gone. And I just think sharing as much as I possibly can…it’s saving so much.”

Bill Cash’s uniform was thrown out after he returned from Vietnam, but his grandson, Ricky Stober, has recreated the uniform with authentic pieces. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/ Breckenridge Texan)

One of the displays features items from Stober’s grandfather. At some point in time after Bill Cash came back from Vietnam, a relative got rid of his Army uniform. Stober has painstakingly tracked down authentic pieces to recreate that uniform for the museum. Some of the other uniforms were donated by veterans or their family members.

Additionally, many of the items in the museum were donated to Stober by the men who served with his grandfather in the 1st Cavalry Division.

He said most of the men in his family have served in the U.S. military, dating back to the militias of the 1700s, and many pieces in the collection are from Stober’s family members. However, he treats all of the donated items with the same respect, regardless of where they came from, researching their history and the lives of the veterans.

“A lot of this stuff I have researched all on my own,” Stober explained. “If it’s not from my family, and if the item is named, I really do the research. I dig as deep as I possibly can; I look at obituaries, service records, interviews, to see if there’s anything I can find. And I take notes and write down and save all the information I possibly can. And I kind of go off of that, or I search the archives, search the internet, really anywhere else I could get every possible bit of information.”

Additionally, every chance he gets, Stober talks to the veterans themselves to get and preserve their stories, to prevent them from fading away with time, he said.

One of the displays in the exhibit features the letters Alfonse Jakobot wrote and illustrated for his fiancée while he was serving in World War II. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

The exhibit includes some Purple Hearts, including the one his grandfather received after being wounded in Vietnam and one posthumously awarded to Tech-Sgt. King P. Gunther, who was killed on Nov. 26, 1943, when the HMT Rohna, which he was on off the coast of Algeria, was attacked, along with five other ships, by 30 German Luftwaffe Aircraft.

Another display features the letters his great-grandfather, Alflonse Jakobot, wrote to his then-fiancée, Doris Riley, when he served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II. Jakobot illustrated the envelopes with drawings featuring scenes such as “Wash Day” or a Marine dreaming of his sweetheart. Also included in the exhibit is the “sweetheart jewelry” that Doris wore while Alfonse was at war.

At this time, the RWS Military Museum is a mobile museum, a museum without a permanent home. Stober often packs up the items and takes them to events, such as the Breckenridge High School Veterans Day program last November. He also frequently goes to events in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, including the monthly luncheon for veterans hosted by the Roll Call organization.

Although Stober says having a physical building to house the museum would be nice, he also enjoys being able to go out into the community. “I love taking the collection places because I love sharing it with people to really help spread the word about my museum,” he said.

Stober will accept donations of military items, including uniforms, photographs, medals, patches, memorabilia, etc. He also accepts monetary donations to help fund the restoration, preservation and research, as well as the travel, associated with maintaining and sharing the museum.

To get in touch with Stober to make a donation or schedule the museum for an event, call him at 203-430-3493 or send an email to rwsmilitarymuseum@gmail.com. The museum also has a Facebook Page (RWS Military Museum) and an Instagram page (rws_military_museum).

The RWS Military Museum exhibit at the BFAC is displayed on several pedestals with glass covers that were donated to the center by Patrick Kelly, executive director of the Old Jail Art Center in Albany, said Shalon Taylor Wilson, director of the BFAC.

The exhibit will be on display at the Breckenridge Fine Arts Center through June 15. The BFAC is located at 207 N. Breckenridge Ave. in Breckenridge. It is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. Hours may change during the summer months. For more information, call 254-559-6602 or send an email to info@breckenridgefineart.org.

The RWS Military Museum includes medals, photos and often the stories of the veterans. One display includes the Purple Heart that was posthumously awarded to Tech-Sgt. King P. Gunter, who was killed 1943. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

Cutline, top photo: Ricky Stober, a 2018 Breckenridge High School graduate, began the collection, which eventually grew into the RWS Military Museum, when he was 10 years old. Many of the items from the museum are on display at the Breckenridge Fine Arts Center through June 15. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)


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