“They don’t know,” Tim Reid laughs. “We still get people coming in here to pay their taxes or get their driver’s license.”
Reid is about a year into his role as executive director of the Texas Panhandle War Memorial (TPWM), an organization that began in 1992. After its inception, every couple of years, a group of committed fundraisers added to the TPWM gardens and collected artifacts and tributes to Panhandle Veterans. Recently, the TPWM completed an ambitious fundraising campaign and building renovation that began in 2017. The TPWM Education Center is now located in what used to be the Randall County Annex, located at 4111 Georgia St. in Amarillo.
“I think they raised a little bit over $3 million, and they decided to purchase this [building] and put a little over $1.3 million into the building in renovation,” Reid says. “In 2020 they opened the doors of the education center and museum—and closed right away because of COVID.”
After those starts and stops, the TPWM finally opened the doors of the education center in 2021. Today, visitors can see local photos and artifacts, while interacting with educational resources that provide insight into wars from the Revolutionary War to Afghanistan.
“As a building, they did a great job doing the decorating inside and bringing in exhibits that were meaningful to people who want to enjoy history but also meaningful to the Panhandle,” Reid says.
In addition to the education center, the 15,000-square-foot building has a military chapel, a collection of military artifacts, two conference rooms, a gift shop and more than a dozen offices available for rent. The facility honors Veterans who were involved in wars beginning with the Spanish-American War through more recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 1,550 names of military personnel are honored on various monuments on the property, including two Medal of Honor recipients (see page 47). Reid, the sole employee of TPWM, says he’d like to bring more energy to the building.
“The atmosphere here is nice,” he says. “I wish it were busier—especially for our volunteers.”
Reid says TPWM welcomes about 200 visitors a month, but hopes to grow those numbers. Currently, volunteers are happy to give tours of the different exhibits. In the future, Reid says he hopes to develope an audio-guided tour to take visitors on a journey through TPWM. He’s also working to bring in more exhibits to increase interest.
“One of the things that I’m trying to do is about every four to six months have a new exhibit,” he says. “Because once you come here, you’ve seen it. So what’s going to bring people back? You know, when I first took over last September, I was getting myself acclimated and looking at the exhibits. The one thing I noticed was there was nothing [dedicated] to women.”
Reid and the TPWM volunteers are working to change that They’re in the planning stages for a new exhibit on the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). WASPs were a group of civilian women who flew military aircraft in non-combat roles during World War II, providing essential support for the United States military. Despite their significant contributions, it wasn’t until 1977 that they were granted retroactive military status and official recognition for their service. Reid says they’ll recognize seven women from the Panhandle area who served as WASPs with a permanent exhibit.
Visitors can also look forward to an exhibit honoring POWs from the area.
“I think there’s two from the Korean War that survived, one from World War II and one from Vietnam,” Reid says. “Plus, we had a woman from Dalhart who was a nurse and was captured in the Bataan and attacked by the Japanese. So, we’re going to focus on those people. I want to do kind of a comparison, so when students come in here, they’ll realize the difference in how we, as the United States, treat our prisoners of war. That’s a big thing for students to learn. I don’t know if most schools … would talk about that.”
Reid says he has a robust number of students who are homeschooled and visit TPWM for some of their history lessons, but he is focused on increasing engagement from local public schools. He says giving students an out-of-classroom learning experience can be invaluable.
“I try to let them experience what I can, like the USS Arizona, that’s locked up outside,” Reid explains. “I open the door, and I let them stand on the deck. Nobody’s stood on that deck for 82 years. I’ll tell them you don’t understand the significance of this right now, but as you get older, and you’re studying the history, and if you have a grandparent who’s alive, you might want to talk to them about it. I try to let the kids have as much hands-on [experience] with things.”
While expanding educational opportunities for area students is a focus for TPWM, Reid and his dedicated volunteers will continue to host events like the annual Veteran’s Day ceremony, scheduled for 11 a.m. on Nov. 11. The outdoor ceremony will include a featured speaker, salute to the services, flyover, and recognition of Gold Star Families. It draws one of the largest crowds the memorial sees each year.
Organizers also invite visitors for a monthly speaker series on a variety of topics of interest to local Veterans.
“People need to pay attention to the Veterans and thank them, not only for their service but for allowing us to be as comfortable a nation as we are,” Reid says. “So the ceremonies we have, especially the Veterans Day coming up, are important so that people take that time to remember. The gardens and this building emphasize that, and that’s what we want it to be: honor, remember and learn.”
Upcoming WASPs Exhibit Will Feature:
- Lela Loudder Harding and Nell S. Stevenson Bright from Canyon
- Dorothy C. Hawkins Goot and Gloria Devore Schwager from Amarillo
- Florence Miller Watson from Borger
- Bobbye C. Cain Jersig from Clovis
- Kathleen Kelly Titland from Tucumcari