Veterans' Memorial Hall hires new program director
Duluthian David Boe has joined the St. Louis County Historical Society as program manager of the Veterans' Memorial Hall. He will manage the VMH program in all its functioning areas, including the oral history program, artifact and archival management, event and exhibit production, fundraising and public relations.
"What I want to do, as program manager, is promote, procure and preserve. Promote the mission of the Veterans' Memorial Hall, so we can procure histories and artifacts and then preserve them for posterity," Boe said.
Boe, who served during the Gulf War, has a history of working with veterans.
Boe served 20 years in the U.S. Army, Army Reserve and Air National Guard. He first enlisted in the army directly after graduating from East High School in 1983 and was first stationed at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany. There he worked as a battery clerk for four years before being transferred to Fort Riley in Kansas.
"One of the things I got to do there was put together all the awards that people in my unit earned. That was an interesting position because I was helping out my fellow veterans by completing paperwork," Boe said.
At Fort Riley, Boe found his chief interests: public affairs and writing. He answered an advertisement in the Post newspaper and wrote his first story. After writing a few freelance articles, he was pulled in to write full time.
"I had a way of writing about what the soldiers were doing that captured their humanity. These weren't just unnamed soldiers, they became people," Boe said.
Boe was assigned to the Third Armored Division in 1990, right before Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. His unit was in the first wave of Operation Desert Storm. He still has his gas mask from his time stationed there.
"I just put this on the other night for the first time in probably 20 years. It scared my wife," he said. "When I was in the Gulf War, every time the scuds would come flying around, we had to throw this thing on. I had it on quite a bit."
To Boe, the gas mask is a symbol of his time in the war. He is thinking about donating it to the Vets Hall, as part of the hall's mission is to preserve donated items from veterans.
"This is part of my history. I know there are many guys like me who have items like that sitting in their closets or garages. Donating it can help the next generation understand and appreciate the experiences that you had," Boe said.
After the Gulf War, the army began to reduce the number of active troops and offered an incentive to get out. Boe took the incentive to go to college and retired from active duty after nine years of experience. He joined the Army Reserves, attended Lake Superior College while working as the veterans representative and assistant registrar and continued to work in public affairs.
After graduating with a bachelor's degree in political science, Boe worked as a staff assistant on military and veterans affairs for U.S. Congressman James Oberstar. There he advised on veterans issues and assisted veterans applying for disability or obtaining old medals.
"I had a few cases where this literally changed their lives. They were fighting against the system. Some of these guys were almost homeless. It was huge when we could get the VA to take a second look at their applications. It was amazing when we could help someone," Boe said.
Today with the Vets Hall, Boe is mostly focused on obtaining oral histories and artifacts from veterans around St. Louis County. He will not be going out to collect the histories; there is a staff of volunteers who are trained to do that. He hopes by sharing pieces of his story that he can "encourage others to do the same."
"For more than 30 years, as a serviceman and a veteran, I've heard and told myself countless 'war stories.' You know, those sometimes funny, sometimes sad, colorful anecdotes of military life, told over beers, over brats, or over the Internet, like on Facebook," Boe said. "Veterans like to tell a good story. Here's a chance to do it right, set the record straight and preserve your history for yourself, your family, friends and the community, for generations to come."
Veterans interested in finding more information or contacting Veterans' Memorial Hall can visitvets-hall.org, visit the museum in the Depot, 506 West Michigan St. or call David at (218) 733-7500.
Annual remembrance dinner Dec. 3
One of David Boe's first duties as the new program manager of Veterans' Memorial Hall is the annual remembrance dinner at the Depot's Great Hall, 5-8 p.m. on Dec. 3. The guest speaker is former 148th Fighter Wing Chief Master Sergeant Jodi Stauber, as a part of 2015 being the "Year of the Service Woman." Tickets cost $35 and can be purchased at the St. Louis County Historical Society office.