Takes a mountain of a man, and Pete Minix has collected a mountain of archives at the Gen. Patton Museum filled with over 400 stories of US Military Veterans and others who experienced the Korean and World War 2 first hand.
A couple months ago I flew my grandfather to the General George S. Patton Memorial Museum in Chiriaco Summit, California which has a small public runway 1000 feet from the entrance. My grandfather served under Gen. Patton in WW2 and thought it would be great for his 91st birthday. The museum is nestled at the base of the Eagle Mountains where Gen. Patton chose to set up a camp to train soldiers for the North African Invasion.
The museum is filled with countless vehicles, weapons, uniforms, medals, and many amazing showcases of World War 2 including various belongings to the General himself. There is even displays for the Korean War, Vietnam and the Gulf War. There is also a 20 minute video of the General and the history of the camp. A must for US Military World War 2 history and nostalgia.
While we were there the museum general manager, Mike Pierson, took notice of the 91 yr old WW2 Veteran touring the displays. He introduced himself and told us of a complimentary service the museum provides to families of those wishing to have their Veteran loved ones archived at the museum. I soon learned of Pete Minix, a museum board member and the invaluable volunteer work he provides for those looking to learn more about the men and women that served.
Pete was not at the museum that day but later he would give me a call and begin the process of documenting my grandfather. I was impressed with the level of commitment Mr. Minix takes to gather the info to create each individual’s archive. Pete and I spoke and soon he was interviewing my grandfather and documenting. Being a part of this and learning more about what he does for the museum it dawned on me that someone needs to interview Mr. Minix and honor what he does and the thousands of hours he volunteers to help families discover their US Veteran heritage.
I asked Pete if he would be interested and he agreed. He seemed very modest about what he does for folks and I looked forward to learning more. We set a date to come and interview him. It was the beginning of April and the weather was not cooperating. Each day we scheduled I awoke to Extreme High Winds alerts or Severe Marine layers and of course “May Grey”. For weeks we were stymied by Mother Nature. After almost 8 weeks of crazy southern California springtime “El Nino” weather there was a break in the clouds!
June 5th the weather cleared up for another crazy weather episode with a record high heat wave but it was clear and calm enough to fly! I could only think of the days leading up to D-Day and how the US had to wait for a break in the weather to being able to make the campaign successful. Finally I would be able to meet Mr. Minix in person. When I arrived we met at the local Coffee House that has a pretty good breakfast restaurant next to the airstrip and museum. He was wearing a Red, White and Blue flannel shirt and a USMC cap adorned with various pins. He stood up to shake my hand. Being 6’3″ myself I’m not used to having to look up to folks, but he was surely a couple inches taller and for 63 years old a mountain of a man.
He was inked with tattoo art on each exposed arm and leg of various Veterans and cool shark images. Mr. Minix was also a Veteran reaching the rank of Sergeant with the USMC after 5 years in. He also served with the National Guard for another 3. He started this project 16 years ago and have documented nearly 400 Veterans.
We ate breakfast and talked about his 18 years dedicating time and energy to help anyone who requests the archiving service. He joked about his “hunt and peck” typing and bemused by anecdotes of people who actually don’t care about finding out about their own heritage. I can’t imagine why someone wouldn’t accept Mr. Minix’s generous offer to take the countless hours and many strokes of the keyboard to manifest these individual Veteran archives to be kept for future posterity.
Once the museum opened at 9:30am we went over and he took me back to the archive room where he kept the volumes of Veterans he has researched and data based. Each one meticulously organized and thoughtfully outlined he pulled out one in particular that he wished to share. It began with an Auschwitz survivor. As a boy of 14 he was captured by the German Army and forced to wear a yellow Star of David. He lost his entire family to the camps and his parents were put to death by the Nazis. Just surviving is defiance to tyranny!
This truly framed the reason on which World War 2 was fought…To defend freedom and defeat those who wish to take it away.
The volume contained another story of an US Army Veteran that jumped on a grenade to save his fellow soldiers and survived! There were pictures of him shaking hands with President Truman receiving the Medal of Honor and miraculously a picture of him today in uniform. Incredible acts of bravery with no regard of one’s own self to save others in harm’s way. These people are the true heroes of history that made a difference that may have allowed someone else’s loved one to return home.
The next was another Medal of Honor winner that served in the 1st Marine Division in Peleliu. My other grandfather was also there and we wondered if they perhaps knew one another. Seeing the picture of the Marine in the book washed over me as I thought of my grandfather’s experience in the South Pacific. These pages came to life as they turned revealing countless stories and documents of each of these amazing individual’s stories and accomplishments during the most darkest years of world history.
Amazing stories of amazing people against amazing odds defeating Fascism in Europe.
The volume was about 5 inches thick and each page protected by plastic covers contained only 8 people. The amount of care and handling to each of these works is monumental. As the pages kept turning I was blown away by the depth and scope of the entire archive and how much time and effort he must have made to assemble this magnitude of documentation. A treasure to the General George Patton Museum providing an ever expanding wealth of history for those that care enough to discover its riches.
If you know anyone that may be interested or perhaps a family member that has had a loved one serve in World War 2 or Korea do yourself a favor and reach out to Mr. Minix to give you the care and appreciation our Veterans deserve in remembering the incredible testaments in the never ending pursuit of Freedom. It was my honor to have been able to share this time and learn more about the selfless endeavors of Pete Minix in bringing this extensive archive of heroes and those that paid the ultimate price to ensure our future and posterity of America! God Bless America and all those that have served to keep her flag flying high!