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GAUTIER, MS (WLOX) -
If you're a military history buff, there's an incredible gateway to the past right here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
Walking up to the GI museum in Gautier, you get a feel for the past before you even enter the doors. Military choppers and vehicles line the drive.
Once inside, you take a trip back in time. Uniforms from a bygone era line the walls. Newspapers depict the war efforts from decades ago.
Doug Mansfield is the owner, operator, and curator of the museum. You could say the military is in his blood.
"My uncles, seven of them, were all in World War II, and I listened to all of their stories," Mansfield explained. "They ranged from LCBP drivers in invasions to people in Europe. I had one uncle who was a fighter pilot."
This museum is a labor of love for Mansfield.
"It's something that I have a passion for. I mean I don't have a boat. I don't play golf. I don't have any other hobbies. So it is expensive. It is hard to do sometimes, but I just feel the passion to keep on going," Mansfield said.
Of all the additions that Mansfield has built onto this museum over the past several years, there is one that is nearest and dearest to his heart. It's a tribute to a coast man who lost his life in the war on terror.
"I decided to name the GI museum in honor of Sean M. Cooley because I him met back in 1985 when he was a student at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College," Mansfield recalled. "He was in the associate degree nursing program and he and I became instant friends. He was just the nicest guy you could meet. Some people just have that effect on you."
Perhaps the greatest service this museum provides is a link to what has been called the greatest generation, according to Mansfield.
"It's important to me that this history not get lost because children aren't learning this in school today. And we have young men and women, who are right now, overseas serving. And my son has done several tours overseas. And I know what it's like to sit home and wonder, wow is my child okay." Mansfield said.
The GI museum is open on the first and third Sundays of each month, as well as, on Wednesdays from 10a.m. until 5p.m. It is also open by appointment. The museum is located off Highway 57 between I-10 and Highway 90 in Gautier. Just follow the signs.
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