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Great Bend Public Library showing military memorabilia
Carl Brandt, left, and his son Richard Brandt, both Kansas Honor Flight volunteers from La Crosse, pose with Karen Shaner, who has coordinated an exhibit at the Great Bend Public Library to honor veterans. - photo by Susan Thacker

Just in time for Veterans Day, an exhibit of military memorabilia can be seen at the Great Bend Public Library.

Karen Shaner from Great Bend coordinated the exhibit, pulling from her own family history and finding several other area residents to share family keepsakes and photos dating back as far as the Spanish-American War. 

“I had lots of different people bring things in on loan,” Shaner said, including her brother, Darwin Schloemer, and fellow Artists at Large member Billie Bonomo.

Shaner organized a similar exhibit at the library two years ago was touched by the response. As she was setting up that display, other veterans introduced themselves and shared their stories.

“A gentleman brought a uniform in and said he was thrilled that we were honoring veterans,” Shaner said.

She wanted to bring the exhibit back in 2021 but couldn’t because of the pandemic.

This year she has contacted even more veterans and their family members to find more items. During the Great Bend Airfest last September, she met Kansas Honor Flight volunteers Carl Brant and son Richard from La Crosse, and they are showing the 1944 Model 53 Cushman Airborne scooter that Carl restored.

Carl, who served in the Army in Salzburg, Austria, during the Korean War era, was on an Honor Flight in 2015. Since then, Carl, his daughter Patty Crowell and son Richard have promoted the nonprofit group that provides free trips to Washington, D.C., for veterans of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Carl’s hobby is restoring Cushman motor scooters, so they take a Cushman package cart to events like the Airfest and hand out ice cream to promote Kansas Honor Flights.

“We believe this (scooter in the exhibit) was possibly used at the Great Bend airfield,” Richard said. Those that were shipped overseas were pushed out of C-47 transport planes and dropped using parachutes or gliders.

Carl said they found the scooter at a friend’s farm south of Rush Center. When he started restoring it, there was little more than the front fork.

“We had to find wheels, a motor and transmission,” he said. He spent six or seven years finding original parts and it is now “90% correct,” he said.

Old newspaper articles are also part of the display. Shaner found an old, red leather-bound book published by the Great Bend Tribune to honor World War II veterans. Photos of 34 men from Barton County who died while serving during the war are featured.

A “Scrap going to war” poster from World War II was placed on railroad cars carrying scrap metal for La Crosse for use in World War II.

The exhibit will remain up at the Great Bend Public Library through the end of the month. Shaner said she hopes veterans and those who honor veterans will enjoy the collection.