MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Marine Corp. John Nemeth never struck his daughter as a fierce fighter.
He was simply her Daddy.
The thought of her father enlisting and wielding a flamethrower for the First Marine Division during World War II is almost unimaginable for Lynda Large, 71, of Montgomery. However, the table full of military mementos, pictures, pins and badges proves otherwise.
Now, Large is in search of a place to donate the items to preserve them for the next generation.
“I don’t have any grandchildren and I would like for others, when these things do become displayed, to just remember my father was an ordinary man who fought with the Marines and just did what he had to do during a time of war,” Large said.
Nemeth always was proud of his Marine heritage and kept a lot of photos, letters and uniform paraphernalia from his time in the service, from 1943 to when he was discharged in 1946, she said.
Local Air Force enlisted curator Bill Chivalette said Large is not alone in her search for a way to share the mementos.
Finding a home for special family heirlooms is a problem many people face, said Chivalette, who has helped many families find homes for their relatives’ wartime memorabilia.
Chivalette, the curator at the Air Force Enlisted Heritage Hall and Enlisted Heritage Research Institute at Gunter Annex, has spent more than 25 years preserving, researching and exhibiting donated enlisted history.
“I’ll get 10 to 12 phone calls a year or more where people are trying to place things that were precious to their parents or a loved one who served,” Chivalette said. “So often the children are less interested because they didn’t live through that period, so they try to find a home for it out of respect. “
Whatever the case might be, Chivalette does not want to see such items thrown away.
Large is looking to donate items that include her father’s dog tags, the hat he wore every day while serving in the Pacific and Asiatic theaters of the war, uniform pins and patches, newspaper clippings, a scrapbook and old photographs, a belt and buckle.
Some of the unique items include his ribbon rack, foreign currency and an old leather baseball glove Nemeth brought with him to war and used while playing the game with the other men in his battalion.
Nemeth’s ribbon rack include the Navy and Marine Corp Medal, the Navy unit commendation and the Navy and Marine Corps Presidential Unit Citation with a bronze star symbolizing action was involved.
Chivalette suggestion for Large and others trying to donate military items is to contact national museums first.
“What I would recommend for her, the very first thing is to contact the Marine Museum in Washington, D.C., because they’re the largest,” Chivalette said. “… You start with the root, and the root would be the largest museum for that particular service, and then you work your way down. It’s always best to contact a professional and ask them for help.”
Large is hopeful she can share with others what her father meant to her.
“My father was a man who cared,” Large said. “It’s so hard to put into words. He loved this country, he loved the Corps and he loved his family with a passion.”
A list of museums by state
National Museum of the Marine Corps and Heritage Center
National Museum of the United States Air Force
National Museum of the United States Navy
National Museum of the United States Army and Historical Foundation
U.S. Coast Guard Museum