Since a child, Gautier resident Doug Mansfield has loved everything dealing with military life. He developed a special love for World War II memorabilia, and even open up a museum to honor veterans and teach young people about the war.
But last week, the shop that housed majority of his memorabilia burned to the ground. Mansfield says he woke up Sunday morning to an unusual noise.
"Sounded like someone was slamming a car door in the driveway."
Mansfield says that's when he ran to his bedroom window, never thinking he would see his worst nightmare - his shop on fire.
"Watching so much of your life disappear in minutes, that word would be 'helplessness.'"
"This was one of the straps that held the side of jeep. As you can see now it is just crumbling ashes never to be again."
But what hurts Mansfield the most is losing the two military jeeps he used for driving veterans in parades, and brought to local schools to teach students.
"This is the World War II, 1943 Ford GPW 3. Twelve years, $30,000 of vehicle and a huge part of my life."
With a quarter of a million dollars lost and no insurance, Mansfield is looking for help from the coast residents.
"If anybody finds it in their heart to help, we would greatly appreciate it and it will not go unnoticed," Mansfield said.
He hopes through the generosity of others, he can rebuild his collection to once again show the sacrifices of men and women of World War II. If you would like to help, call (228) 218-7739.
While the cause of the fire is still under investigation, officials with the Gautier Fire Department said they found no criminal intent.