15 Sep 2014
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Twins Honor Service, Sacrifice of Veterans

Ken, of Marietta, and Keith Myers collect the uniforms and stories of veterans and put them on display to pay tribute to their service and sacrifice.

A woman walks into the exhibit, searching out one item. She stops and stares for a long time at a worn green uniform. Tears fill her eyes as her gaze travels to a photo above the WWII uniform. The face of her deceased loved one stares back at her. This is a scene that Ken Myers has witnessed many times.

Ken, 63, of Marietta, collects the uniforms and stories of veterans. He and his identical twin brother, Keith, display uniforms in "honor of all veterans who have served in the different branches."

"Our dad and uncle were both naval aviators in World War II," Ken explained. Their father was a Hellcat Fighter and received medals for shooting down Japanese fighter planes. After the war, Ken's father and uncle decided to stay in the Navy. His father became a flight instructor. 

One day he and a student were out and there was a malfunction with the plane and he was killed. Ken's grandmother had all of his father's uniforms and other military items. 

"If I look at what I'm doing, it's a lot of time and energy but compared to what these men and women are doing, putting their lives on the line, it's really nothing."

"It was always a sacred thing for us to see when my brother and I visited our grandparents," Ken said.

However, Ken's grandmother eventually got rid of the items, saying she hadn't known the brothers would be interested in them. One of the brothers went to the thrift store, but the uniform was gone.

"My brother and I thought, this probably happens a lot," Ken said. 

Ken started doing military uniform displays in 1999 and his upcoming display at will be his 170th display. The display will run from May 24 through May 28 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Last year over 1,200 people came through this annual display.

Keith, who lives in Tulsa, Okla., also does uniform displays. 

"If it's a veteran or family, the veteran is pleased to see the uniform is not just sitting in the closet; it's on display," Ken said. "People come in and they stop and think about the people that have served our country."

Ken shows uniforms around the metro area, and every uniform on display is identified with the veteran's name, branch of service and when the veteran served. Many include photos (one of the veteran in the uniform during service and one years later). The uniforms date back to World War I and show the service of men and women through Operation Iraqi Freedom. 

"If I look at what I'm doing, it's a lot of time and energy but compared to what these men and women are doing, putting their lives on the line, it's really nothing," Ken said. 

Ken goes into schools, churches, veterans organizations, retirement centers, anywhere that people request to see the uniforms. He recently had one of his displays at the . He rotates the uniforms so you won't see the same thing at every display. 

"I just hope that I have paid full honor to our veterans, that I have done this in a way that it's a tribute to them."

"I just hope that I have paid full honor to our veterans, that I have done this in a way that it's a tribute to them."

The uniforms come from people who come in and see a display, word of mouth and garage sales.

"One woman told me her son was killed in Vietnam and that she had no uniform, but she did have his medal. She asked if that was okay and if I'd be interested. She probably paid me the highest honor in asking about her son's medals."

In addition to uniforms Ken has patches, insignia, discharge papers, pay sheets, "anything family or a veteran have that they would like to have put on display."

"One woman told me her son was killed in Vietnam and that she had no uniform, but she did have his medal. She asked if that was okay and if I'd be interested. She probably paid me the highest honor in asking about her son's medals." 

The displays are free. "If I ever took money for what I'm doing, it'd be a disservice and dishonor," Ken said. If Ken does receive money for loaning his display, he donates it to a veterans' organization. 

Ken says that one of the most rewarding parts of doing these displays are the friendships he has formed with various veterans. 

"If I'm tired at the end of the day, I just stop and think about what these veterans did."

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