Veterans History Museum of the Carolinas reimagines museum experience, seeks more collaborations and artifacts

Living museum not only wants to see more students, but more collaborations with veterans and their families in the Carolinas.
The Veterans Museum of the Carolinas in Brevard is helping share the stories of veterans with its new lecture series
Published: Mar. 1, 2023 at 6:10 PM EST
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GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - Since 2017, the Veterans Museum of the Carolinas has preserved the contributions of veterans, both past and present. And new in 2023 they’re going a step further with living histories in lecture series. It’s a more relevant way to educate the next generation and reimagining the museum experience.

The year was 1941, and a 17-year-old Joe Dayton Cooper was fascinated by life in the U.S. Navy.

“I wanted to see the world,” Cooper said.

But life on a ship was more difficult than some may imagine during World War II, the largest and deadliest war in history. And Cooper was also underage.

“My dad was in World War I and I wanted to join the military,” he said.

And he did, after his parents signed a waiver.

“I didn’t know what danger was,” Cooper said.

And the young sailor learned quick.

“Loading and pushing shells into the breech was the hardest part,” he said.

Cooper was a gunner, the first and last line of defense for a Navy warship.

“I call it bad,” he said.

In fact, he was in the Philippines when a Japanese kamikaze dove into the center of his ship killing 297 of his peers, and Cooper struggled in shark infested water for five hours.

“(I learned) don’t kick or splash your feet or the sharks will come after you,” he said.

Quite the life for a teenager who lived by duty, honor, country, travel and adrenaline.

“(the military) isn’t a bad place in the end,” Cooper said.

After leaving the Navy in 1945, he would re-enlist in the U.S. Army in 1948, and two years later serve as a recon scout in the Korean War.

“I was the eyes and ears of our division,” he said.

A risky experience, and he lost peers.

“A lot of people got killed. Some (scouts) got lost, too,” he said.

And now at 100, he’s one of many veterans from the Carolinas sharing their stories within these walls.

“I tell people to serve their country,” he said.

“To me people want to see the uniform that the service member actually wore with a name (and person) to go with it,” said Emmett Casciato, Veterans History Museum of the Carolinas founder/curator.

Emmett Casciato is referencing thousands of artifacts inside the Veterans History Museum of the Carolinas.

“When people saw what I was doing they were eager to give me their families artifacts,” he said.

Uniforms, weapons, vehicles, medals, draft cards, rations, and musical instruments in campaigns from World War I to present day.

In 2017, Casciato says his garage became too small, and thanks to support in Brevard, the museum sits today at 21 East Main Street in Brevard, North Carolina.

“We are more than a building with stuff in it,” Casciato said.

There’s even an honor wall for current and former veterans. And the museum also features monthly special guests and lecture series from people like 100-year-old Joe Dayton Cooper.

“Duty, honor and country,” Cooper said.

“I want the kids to understand what the men and women went through and the sacrifices they went through,” added Casciato.

And the living museum not only wants to see more students, but more collaborations with veterans and their families in the Carolinas.

“When somebody gives me something, I always say do you have a photo with it, because I like to put a face to a uniform, or a face to metals, or a face to ribbons and so forth,” Casciato said.

Redefining what museums represent, how they’re maintained and sprung to life.

“We built the museum,” Casciato said.

To learn how you can contribute to The Veterans History Museum of the Carolinas visit