Historic military uniforms are on display once again at about 15 downtown Albany businesses and other storefronts.
“This is a way we can show support for our veterans, and what the men and women of our country did for us,” said Lise Grato, executive director of the Albany Downtown Association, which organized the displays.
Nicole Roka and her family took over Curvy Girl Consignment Clothing in Two Rivers Market this summer, and she said she was excited to display a uniform — a women’s Coast Guard reserves uniform from World War II, to be specific — for the first time.
“We’re such a patriotic family, and to be able to honor someone who served and sacrificed for our country is phenomenal,” Roka said.
She also hopes that the uniform could bring more visitors to her shop, and a potential boost in business.
Thousands of residents and visitors are downtown on Veterans Day, and Grato said she knows that some walk to each location that showcases a uniform.
The uniforms are provided by the Veterans of Foreign Wars Marion Post 661, which has collected them for about 25 years. The organization has about 1,750 uniforms ready for display in its inventory, said Tom Vanderhoof of Salem, an Air Force veteran.
Businesses that show the historic clothing make a donation to the organization to help with the upkeep, Grato said.
“On each uniform, the VFW has provided research on the individual who wore the uniform, and any info about campaigns they were involved in or medals they were presented with,” Grato said. She added that it’s a neat way to keep history alive.
“They’ve rescued these uniforms out of dumpsters and yard sales and are always looking” for more, Grato said.
Among the notable uniforms this year is a World War I Navy uniform at Sybaris and a Civil War uniform replica at The Natty Dresser. The great-great-granddaughter of the Civil War soldier sewed the replica herself, and it’s displayed with a Woolrich blanket made the exact same way as in the 1860s.
Other downtown locations that are showcasing uniforms include: the Albany Chamber of Commerce; the Albany Visitors Association; Boda Furniture; Ryan Hanson’s Edward Jones office; 1st Hand Seconds; the Growler Garage; the Albany Historic Carousel & Museum; Pacific Yew Yoga; the Quilt Loft; Suzanne Bodlovic’s State Farm Insurance office; and Willamette Community Bank.
The military uniforms from the VFW Post 661 were first displayed in Albany in 2014, when the Downtown Association had four uniforms in its windows. The next year, about 10 businesses showcased historic uniforms and replicas, including the uniform of Salem resident Don Malarkey of “Band of Brothers” fame, who recently died.
For more information on the VFW Marion Post 661 or to donate a military uniform, call Tom Vanderhoof at 503-589-9376.