Retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Andrew Laramee has been collecting and restoring Vermont military artifacts and memorabilia for three decades. Beginning with the library and field display of armored vehicles in the 1970s, today the Vermont Veterans Militia Museum and Library at Camp Johnson in Colchester boasts unique exhibits representing every branch of military service dating as far back as the Revolutionary War. With thanks to the relentless work of patriots like Laramee, our state history and the contributions of our veterans have been preserved for generations to come.
Concerned over the possibility of losing Vermont’s heritage, Laramee, a life-long South Burlington resident, began recovering retired military equipment while serving in the Vermont National Guard. Through the years, the museum has grown in both size and scope.
Today Laramee serves as one of the museum’s 15-member volunteer Board of Directors, dedicated to safeguarding and showcasing the treasures donated by the military, the government and private benefactors.
Museum visitors will discover exclusive collections including books, medals of honor, weaponry, and uniforms, along with elaborate displays of aircrafts and vehicles, a rail boxcar donated from the French to the state of Vermont after the first World War and a civil war cannon assigned to the 2nd Battery, Vermont Light Artillery.
One of the most remarkable sightings is the 17-foot by 28-foot canvas painting of General Sheridan’s Ride depicting the Revolutionary War Battle of Cedar Creek. Artist and native Vermonter Charles H. Andrus effectively captured the harrowing scene of General Phil Sheridan rallying the troops—which included the “tenacious” Green Mountain Boys of the Old Vermont Brigade—and securing victory against the Confederates in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia on October 19, 1864.
“If you’re interested in Vermont history and Vermont military history, it’s here,” Laramee, 75, stated. “If you’re interested in U.S. history, it’s here.”
Laramee, who learned his trade early in life working at his father’s general mechanic shop, devoted 43 years of his life to military and civil service, and now lends his expertise every Thursday at the museum.
“What else are you going to do when you retire?” joked Laramee. “You can only play so many rounds of golf.”
His latest project involves restoring a Spanish-American War cannon from 1898, for which he’s called upon Amish craftsman from Pennsylvania to replicate a wooden wheel.
Laramee recommends volunteer service to all new retirees, especially military personnel, bragging, “It keeps me young.” Other South Burlington residents who volunteer at the museum are Roland Brosseau, Pam Lamphere, Bernie Pfenning, Jean Rainville, and Phil Spargo.
The Vermont Veterans Militia Museum and Library, which offers free public admission, is open Tuesdays through Thursdays from 10:00–15:00 hours (That’s 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.). Memberships and donations support the non-profit museum. For more information on volunteer opportunities and tours, visit www.vtguard.com/museum or call the museum office at 338-3360.
SOURCE: Lisa Osbahr, Contributor