Inside the Military Memorial Museum in downtown Crossville lay many artifacts that quietly speak volumes for bravery, honor and freedom. It's the kind of place old soldiers and those too young to know of war approach with an equal amount of awe, one revisiting history and the other discovering it. With so many visitors enjoying their vacations in Cumberland County, the Military Museum, at 20 S. Main St., is an educational gem everyone needs to experience.

One of the most moving displays is the one that remembers Crossville's World War I hero, Army 1st Sgt. Milo Lemert, a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient.

Lemert, who was a member of Company G, 119th Infantry, 30th Division, found himself positioned for battle against the Germans (Central Powers) in World War I along their super fortress of concrete trenches called the Hindenburg Line. It stretched an "impregnable" 100 miles across northwestern France.

The Allied Powers knew they must break through this fortress of enemy defense if they were to be successful.

After weeks of strategizing, the first Allied attack was launched on Sept. 18, 1918 by British and Australian forces, who managed to make a significant dent. On Sept. 29, the line was finally broken in the second attack, as Australian and U.S. troops led the way determined to break through the line's center, near Bellicourt, France. They initially attacked a strongly defended sector using a concerted barrage of tanks, artillery and aircraft. Progress was made, but not without an intense struggle against well-entrenched enemy forces.

The fighting lasted four days and resulted in heavy losses — Lemert was among them. Married a year to the day and just 28 years old, Lemert died during the first day of the battle, but not before he managed to, one-by-one, take out four German machine gun nests with hand-thrown grenades. In doing so, he saved the lives of many of his fellow soldiers and left an enduring legacy of valor.

Among the displays are memorabilia from the Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Korean Conflict, the Vietnam War and both of the Iraqi wars, Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom.

On Nov. 12, 2004, 23-year-old Sgt. Morgan Strader, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment (a dedicated U.S. Marine from Cumberland County), was killed in action in the Fallujah Offensive in Iraq. Items donated to the museum tell the story of this local hero.

The little museum across the street from the courthouse stands as a record to the extraordinary deeds of ordinary men who became soldiers and will remain heroes for all time.

The museum opened on Memorial Day 2004 through the efforts of members of the now disbanded Cumberland County Historical and Genealogical Society. Currently, the Military Officers of America Association (MOAA) serves as museum sponsor, but it operates strictly on donations from the public and has an all-volunteer staff. The county provides the building for the museum. If you would like to plan a visit, hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday; the museum is closed on Sunday. If you would like to donate money, you may either drop your donation off at the museum or call Nita, 788-1159, for mailing instructions. If you are interested in becoming part of the volunteer staff, call Nita at the number listed above.

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