In 1986, armed only with a determination to preserve historic military vehicles, four Lexington men formed the Heartland Museum. The four friends began taking their restored vehicles to Veterans' Day celebrations and letting veterans ride in the vehicles, even drive them if they wished. The response was so gratifying to the quartet that they continued to comb Central Nebraska for more historic equipment.

In 1991 a permanent site for the museum was obtained. The Heartland Museum's goal is two-fold: To establish a museum to house these historical and operational vehicles. A Visitor Center and Library has been constructed. The 16,000 square foot building now houses about half of the collection. Additional floor space is needed and will be constructed as funds are raised. The location, at the I-80 interchange with Highway 283, gives excellent access to the museum for Interstate travelers.

With more than 60 restored vehicles of all types, the Heartland Museum of Military Vehicles has developed a life of its own. What began as a way to honor Veterans has become a vision to permit all Americans to learn more about the weapons of war in the hope they will never again have to be used.

Not only are there restored jeeps, trucks, ambulances, and half-tracks, but singular vehicles, like the Downed Airman Retriever, one of a handful existing in the entire world. Farmers and veterans have donated various pieces, each remembered by a "pet name" affixed to the vehicle.

Contacts with other Veterans' groups have been beneficial. Confederate Air Force Members restored the Museum's 1942 twin-engine Beechcraft C-45 and now fly it on Museum "Missions." They also bring their own vintage planes to Heartland events.

An extensive library for reference, used to achieve accurate, authentic restorations, has been compiled. Emphasis is placed on selecting correct paint schemes, preserving original insignia and assembling proper accessories.

Most vehicles have been acquired within a 150-mile radius of Lexington. The nucleus of the Heartland Museum of Military Vehicles collection comes from the nation's heartland, Nebraska. Many pieces were used by farmers in the 1940's and early 1950's, when tractors were still in short supply. As the old standbys were retired they were parked in windbreaks, left to rust away. Heartland has given new life to these proud machines.

Acquisition of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle from the U.S. Army has expanded the Museum's scope. The Bradley was a prototype that Heartland Museum of Military Vehicles has restored to full operational capability, except armaments. WIth the Bradley, the collection now spans more than half a century. Other newer acquisitions include several UH 1 "Huey" Helicopters and two M-60 Tanks.

This is a Living Museum, with some of the vehicles ready to roll at a moment's notice. The vehicles are available to educational groups and Veterans across the region as tangible reminders of their service and sacrifice.

The original vision has remained the same: Develop a place to honor America's Veterans of the battlefront and the home front. The Museum offers veterans a place to remember, where they can touch and smell and sit in the very vehicles, which, in some cases, may have saved their lives.

Heartland Museum of Military Vehicles
606 Heartland Road Lexington, NE