Arms Museum hosts weekend devoted to vets

YOUNGSTOWN – A weekend of military appreciation held by the Mahoning Valley Historical Society and the YSU Veterans Society wrapped up on Sunday at the Arms Family Museum.

“We hope to make it an annual event,” said R.J. Markowitz of the historical society. “Our staff pulled together full force over the weekend to put everything together.”

The weekend included basket raffles, art programs for children and tours of the museum with a special display of military uniforms set up in the basement.

Maria Selak, of Girard, said she and her husband read about the weekend in the newspaper and came out to show their appreciation.

“Our son is a helicopter pilot for the Marines in San Diego and my husband was in the National Guard,” she said.

One guest in particular shared a bit of his own history.

John E. Bistrica, 89, of Youngstown landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day. Though 69 years ago, he remembers June 6, 1944, well.

“I thought it was forever,” said the former member of the 1st Infantry Division of the U.S. Army.

Bistrica attended the event to share his story with a member of the historical society to be preserved for generations to come.

He told those gathered that after making his way to the beach through neck-deep water, he said he crossed paths with a fellow soldier who thought he had been shot. It turned out just that the man’s life preserver was on too tight, so Bistrica punctured it and the two men continued up the beach looking for their companies together.

Bistrica did find another soldier from his company, but when he flipped the man over there was a bullet hole in the middle of his forehead – he had been hit by a sniper. Eventually, Bistrica found his company that had been stopped by enemy snipers. They made their way along ducking for cover.

“It was hedgerows after hedgerows,” Bistrica said.

That night he said he dug a hole that seemed like it was 20-feet deep to sleep in for fear of the Germans using heavy artillery on them.

Also Sunday, there was a presentation by Maj. Brent Davis on the 910th Youngstown Air Reserve Station.

“I get excited anytime I can talk about the 910th especially when it’s in my own backyard,” Davis said.

He talked about his own military experience with the U.S. Air Force and when he was granted top secret clearance to work on nuclear arms. He said his time taught him a great deal and made him more disciplined. Davis now works as chief of public affairs at the Vienna station.

His presentation included information about the station’s aerial spray unit that is used for dispersing pesticides and in oil spill clean-ups.

Traci Manning, curator of education for the historical society, said about 100 people turned out over the weekend. Donations of non-perishable food items or toiletries also were collected for the Youngstown Veterans Clinic.

The Arms Family Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday for tours and also has numerous summer programs for children.