HOW WE BEGAN
In April of 2010, a group of local veterans, military history enthusiasts and hobbyists began holding informal, monthly meetings where they would swap stories and historical presentations related to military history. This informal series of meetings started out with crowds numbering 10–20. Over time, a few of the more dedicated individuals and attendees began to develop bulletins and newsletters outlining upcoming speakers and topics, covering the costs of printing and postage out of their own pockets. This additional effort to raise public awareness began to pay off as the number of individuals attending these events steadily grew each month.
By the spring of 2011, attendance of these so-called military history roundtable meetings was approaching 100 individuals each month. At this point a number of issues began to arise. The cost of postage and printing for newsletters was becoming too much to be covered by the individuals that had previously covered it. It also began to become very difficult to find facilities free of charge to hold the number of people attending. The largest issue being faced was that, due to a lack of leadership and oversight, there was no long-term vision or goal which often led to scuffles between attendees as to what the proceeding programs should be comprised of. These challenges continued off and on for the next 17 months.
In October of 2012, the future of these informational and educational meetings came to a crossroads. The facility that had been hosting the meetings for the previous 18 months had to make the tough decision to no longer host them due to rising electric rates. It was at this point that an organizational meeting was held and it was decided that the military history roundtable, as it had become known, would form a governing body and thus an organization to ensure the functions could continue. From this period until April of 2013, a series of discussions took place in regard to the best way to move forward. It was decided in April that the formation of a non-profit would be the best way to move forward. An effort was then made for the next month to locate and recruit individuals to serve on the initial Board of Directors.
The Eastern Kentucky Military Historical Society, Inc. was formally incorporated in the Commonwealth of Kentucky on May 8, 2013. The initial Board of Directors was and is made up of 12 individuals from the original military history roundtable group. During the months since, the board has worked diligently to research and proceed with the plan to form a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of military history and heritage. We have developed the following organizational documents:
· Articles of Incorporation
· Statement of Mission and Purpose
· Conflict of Interest Policy and Potential Conflict Report
· Initial Financial Accounting System
· Amendment of Bylaws to adhere to 501(c)3 status
· Addition of appendix to Bylaws containing Society Policies and Procedures
WHERE WE ARE NOW
Since the incorporation of the organization, we have undertaken a number of goals and initiatives. We have expanded upon our military history roundtable meetings, hosting speakers from as far as 150 miles away. We have also added a monthly coffee meeting to accommodate those individuals that are not able to get out after dark to take part in the military history roundtable. In addition to the formal meetings we host, we also hold a variety of “field trips” that have ranged from visiting local museums to taking part in a vintage weapons demonstration and even visiting a cannon foundry.
Two of the biggest and most successful initiatives that we have undertaken in the last six months would be the development and implementation of a Veterans Appreciation Weekend. The event, held November 1-2, 2013, welcomed more than 1,300 veterans, their families and children from across eastern Kentucky. Highlights of this event included a free dinner for veterans and their families, a series of nationally-renowned speakers and the Freedom Run 5K, a competitive run to raise awareness of disabled veterans.
The second activity that we are very proud of is a recent chartered bus trip to the National Museum of the US Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. The trip, which took place on September 13, had an attendance of 94 local veterans, historians and enthusiasts.
We have a number of organizational goals set for 2014 and beyond. Some of our current endeavors are to develop both a short and long-range business plan. Also in coming weeks we will be completing our first SWOT analysis. Following the development implementation of these plans, we will begin to develop a marketing and fundraising plan that will allow us to further our cause and mission. One of our current highest priorities is to update our financial accounting system to QuickBooks, which will allow us to generate professional reports with ease that will help us maximize our efforts and efficiency.
We plan to build upon the services we currently offer within the next twelve months. We are currently in the planning process to develop a Speakers Bureau. This program will allow us to offer presentations by veterans and historians to local schools to supplement the curriculum they currently receive. In an effort to encourage involvement for all, we are also working with a number of local women to develop a women’s auxiliary group. This arm of the organization will focus primarily on military-related issues faced by women. The goal of this support group will be to provide a central venue for fellowship and network support for the women who have served, worked in the civilian service sector, or have a family member that has or is serving in the military.
In the area of historical exhibitions and displays, we have recently partnered with a local museum to develop an exhibit commemorating the 70th Anniversary of D-Day. As part of this celebration, we will once again hold the Veterans Appreciation Weekend described above, along with a number of special receptions, veteran speakers and school groups. We are also developing a special traveling exhibit that will go to local schools free of charge to provide them with a unique view of WWII.
In the long term it is our dream to one day build a Kentucky Military History Museum. We feel that it is our obligation to ensure that the history and heritage that has been shared with our organization over the previous years’ not be lost. The facility would hold a number of historical exhibits. Additionally, we would provide a research library and an oral history repository, where interviews with veterans from all over Kentucky could be stored and accessed.
We hope that you will join our ranks and help us in our efforts to preserve Kentucky military history and heritage.