WWI Exhibit Opens at the Mascoutah Museum

Visitors to the Mascoutah Museum examine the articles and memorabilia at the opening of their exhibit “Over There, Over Here…Mascoutah and World War I.” HERALD

The Mascoutah Museum held a reception for the opening of their new exhibit “Over There, Over Here…Mascoutah and World War I” on Thursday, April 6.  The exhibit highlighting Mascoutah WWI veterans features photos, original uniforms, postcards, and more from Clarence V. Scheel, Oliver “Ollie” Waigand, Corporal John O. Gougeon, Sergeant Leland Durkes, George Bagby, Private Harrison Lischer, and Private Arthur Lischer.  All items were donated to the museum for the exhibit.
The exhibit is divided into sections: Timeline April 1917-1918, Discord at Home, Soldiers and Their Stories, Coming Home, and Afterwards.  The Norton Theatre features short videos about WWI, and a PowerPoint presentation of postcards and music of the era, accompanied by an oral interview with Ollie Waigand recorded in  1981.
The Mascoutah AFJROTC began the opening of the reception with the posting of both 48 (during WWI) and 50 star United States flags in addition to Illinois and Mascoutah flags.  The national anthem was performed by MHS cadet Hannah Culp.
The invocation was made by Rev. Hugh H. Fitz, pastor of St. John United Church of Christ.
The keynote speaker for the evening was Matthew “Fritz” Mihelcic, a VFW Past Illinois State Commander and 2015-2016 National VFW Judge Advocate General.
Mihelcic retired as Senior Information Law Attorney, Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, United States Transportation at Scott Air Force Base.  At the VFW National Convention on July 22-26, Mihelcic will be on the ballot for Junior Vice Commander-in-Chief of the National VFW and its membership of nearly 1.7 million veterans.  If elected, he will be in line to be the Commander-in-Chief in 2020.
Mihelcic spoke about the beginning of WWI and why the United States became part of that war.  He spoke about the unwavering loyalty European countries embraced.  “They believed that, ‘if you were my friend, you were my friend forever.  If you were my enemy, you were my enemy forever,” Mihelcic stated.  “There was no give-and-take in their belief.”
Mihelcic was born in Germany, and grew up listening to his grandfather talk about the war.  “Trench warfare was the most terrible thing to happen to us,” he remarked.  “It was a terrible price to pay.”
“To bring the war into perspective, you have to understand that for four years, approximately 7,000 people died each day.  Mascoutah has about 7,000 people living here now.  It makes you understand the price we all paid.”
The Mascoutah Museum invites everyone to visit the new exhibit.  The museum is open on Sunday, April 23, from 1:00 until 4:00 p.m., and on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 12 noon. The exhibit will be on display through November 11. The museum’s first and third Sunday afternoons of each month will resume in May.

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