Indiana War Memorial Executive Director, General Stewart Goodwin, is a natural tour guide. You can sense his boyish enthusiasm and professional reverence for the building he works in. The building is a masterpiece. The artifacts contained within honor our heroes throughout Hoosier history. Commissioned in 1919 to honor those who fought in the ‘Great War’, materials from those countries were used in its construction and are meticulously displayed in the Shrine Room. The Shrine Room is a sight to behold – photos cannot do it justice. It is with heartfelt patriotism that Goodwin explains the elements and meaning of each aspect of this room.
Joining the Air Force in 1971, Goodwin’s military career spanned 37 years. He was assigned to various positions including safety director at Fort Benjamin Harrison and chemical warfare specialist at Grissom AFB. Goodwin spent a good deal of time around missile silos. As a missile launch officer working with chemical and nuclear weapons, Goodwin had the highest security clearances. Goodwin is a veteran of Operation Desert Storm and ultimately retired as a brigadier general. Having attended the University of Evansville, where his father was an architect, moving to Indianapolis brought him back to his Midwest roots.
Goodwin’s history and tenure of taking care of valuable goods (explosive, dangerous, caustic chemical and nuclear weapons) as well as his safety experience, led him to the job he loves now: taking care of priceless artifacts. One of the lesser-known facts about the museum is its trove of battle flags. Some 450 flags from the Mexican War to World War II are housed in a vault. Around eighty-five percent of battle flags are from the Civil War. A few are for display, but the bulk of this extensive collection awaits restoration and preservation.
Encompassing 24 acres of real estate in downtown Indianapolis, the Indiana War Memorial itself is a treasure – the gem of the state, in fact. “We can’t be compared to other museums nationwide,” said Gen. Goodwin. “Our museums and grounds speak for themselves, but many do not realize what they will find inside this amazing limestone building.”
Throughout the museum are displays honoring our heroes from every war and conflict. There are displays of famous Hoosiers throughout, both living and legendary. A computer system is available to look up a Hoosier relative who is a veteran – and if you don’t find them, Goodwin will happily see to it that they are added. There is a memorial area for 9/11 honoring those Hoosiers who lost their lives on that day. And, a curiously empty display case that normally houses articles from the USS Indianapolis, but which are temporarily on loan to Hollywood for a movie about our namesake ship sunk in WWII.
It’s easy to see why the general would love his job, the building and surrounding artifacts are awe-inspiring. With Goodwin’s background of safety and care for delicate items, it is no surprise that the governor entrusted him to this position. Did I mention admission is free?