Freedom Museum USA: A Legacy of Service and Sacrifice


In Pampa, Texas, the Freedom Museum USA stands as a proud guardian of military history, honoring the service and sacrifice of those across all branches. “It covers all branches of the military, which is unusual,” says Della Moyer, who has been deeply involved with the museum for nearly two decades.

The museum’s home is a building steeped in history, originally serving as Pampa’s first water pump station. “It was built in the first Pampa water pump station,” Moyer recalls, emphasizing the transformation from a municipal facility to a sanctuary of valor. The city’s support is evident, as it leases the building to the museum for a nominal $10 a year.

The collection within the Freedom Museum is a testament to the community’s commitment to preserving history. “One of our board members has a friend who goes through abandoned containers and storage units,” Moyer shares, revealing the unexpected sources of the museum’s artifacts. This dedication to discovery has unearthed treasures like “two large boxes and there were two photo albums from a naval vessel during World War One.”

The museum also serves as a living tribute to the Pampa Army Air Field, with Moyer’s personal connection adding depth to its story. “There used to be an airbase here,” she says, noting that her father “brought the first troop train in for the airbase out there.” The museum was born from the collective efforts of those connected to the airbase, who established it as a tribute to their shared history.

Ronnie (RJ) Howell, the museum’s sole employee, a veteran, and initially a volunteer, reflects on his path to becoming involved with the museum. “What got me involved with the museum was badgering,” Howell chuckles. His service in the army from ‘68 to ‘71, including time in Vietnam, left him with wounds that cut his military career short, yet his dedication to serving veterans and preserving their stories continued. “Because I joined (the VFW in Pampa), I got involved with the museum here,” he explains.

“I enjoy being here at the museum, especially when people come in and ask me questions,” Howell states. His ability to weave tales from fragments of memory and history adds a rich layer to the museum’s narrative. “That’s how you tell stories, and that’s how legends get built you see,” he muses.

The museum’s ongoing exhibits, such as the one commemorating the 50th anniversary of Vietnam, remain a permanent fixture, reflecting the personal connections of the board members, many of whom are Vietnam veterans. Howell’s stories contribute to the rich tapestry of the museum’s narrative, ensuring that the legends and truths of those who served are preserved for future generations.

Among the museum’s many exhibits, the Coast Guard helicopter holds a special place for Moyer. “Then we have the Coast Guard helicopter out front that I have the complete history of,” she says with pride. The helicopter’s story is one of heroism and tragedy, as “all the flight crew was lost” during a rescue attempt in a storm. The helicopter itself crashed into the ocean and remarkably washed ashore in Kodiak, Alaska. After being recovered and refurbished, it continued its service, playing a role in various missions, including drug interdiction, hurricane monitoring, and rescue operations. “It worked Hurricane Katrina,” Moyer adds, underscoring the aircraft’s long service history.

For Moyer, the helicopter is not just an exhibit; it’s a narrative of progress and resilience. “It’s my favorite because it’s got this fabulous story,” she declares. The helicopter, known as the fallen heroes aircraft, is a tangible reminder of the sacrifices made by service members and the ongoing efforts to honor their memory.

The Freedom Museum USA, with its extensive exhibits and the dedication of individuals like Della Moyer and Ronnie (RJ) Howell, ensures that the legacy of those who served is not only remembered but also felt deeply by all who visit. It’s a place where history is preserved, honored, and continues to inspire.

As Howell recounts his first encounter with the museum, it’s clear that the institution is more than a collection of artifacts—it’s a community. “The first Memorial Day I had up here at the VFW, we all came up here and they opened up the museum. This was the first time I’d been in even though I’d lived in Pampa since ‘79,” he shares. His deep connection to the museum and its mission is evident as he speaks about his role: “I’ve been here at the museum pretty close about 10 years now.”

The Freedom Museum USA stands as a chronicle of bravery and resilience, a place where the stories of those who served in conflicts from World War One to Vietnam and beyond are told with reverence and pride. It’s a place where visitors can come to understand the sacrifices made for freedom and the enduring spirit of the American soldier.