OTTUMWA, Iowa — Somehow, explains Richard Beaver, when someone risks their life for you, “thank you” isn’t enough.
That’s part of the reason he spent months planning and building a series of military dioramas and models to show how much he truly appreciates veterans and current servicemembers.
With Veterans Day approaching — it’s Sunday this year — Beaver, a farmer from Cedar, is grateful that Bridge View Center has allowed him to set up his display through Nov. 14.
The model aircraft he built are the first items to catch a visitor’s attention. While his Mustang fighter plane and the B-17 bomber are popular with history buffs, it’s the bright yellow trainer used by Ottumwa pilots that jumps out from the display.
It’s big — and bright. Which is important, since Bridge View management honored vets by giving Beaver a prime location: tables along the wall of glass overlooking the Des Moines River.
However, veterans who have been deployed, even those who served in peacetime, will be drawn in by the scenes Beaver dreamt up rather than the river view. They’ll recognize their buddies opening mail, something that meant so much — showing off photos from “back home” to the other guys in their platoon.
“I didn’t want to have scenes of shooting Germans [taking cover behind] walls,” said Beaver Thursday. “I wanted to show their [down] time.”
There are several different dioramas, with a lot of detail. Though the basis of the display may have started out as “toys,” it’s the details that stand out.
He purchased a wool-like fabric to cut into blankets, rubbed dirt on soldier’s uniforms as well as their vehicles and created the land under their feet by digging up earth from his machine shop, then sifting it through a filter.
There are a few photos, too, a World War II caption and explanations of equipment on display.
The display focuses on those WW II vets who fought in the Battle of the Bulge or served with the 8th Air Force.
But it’s Beaver’s way of thanking all vets, he said, “dedicated to those who served our country in the armed forces, for their sacrifice for our country and for us.”