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Veterans museum honors those who fought, helped

LAWRENCEVILLE - The Gwinnett Veterans Memorial Museum gave a special tribute Saturday to the volunteers who have helped the museum come so far since it began three years ago.

With 28 people on hand, five people were presented with special plaques that will hang on the museum walls to honor their military service and their service to the museum.

The honorees include George Patsios, Elwood Hart, Richard Hale, Ruth Johnson and Gene Bivings. Their plaques include a picture taken when they were in the service along with their medals and badges.

"These are all great people," said Paul Pickard, co-chairman of the museum. "They're all warriors."

Bivings, who is the museum's director, said Saturday was a chance to reflect on all the contributions the volunteers made to the museum.

"This is the beginning of our fourth year with the museum and we wanted to stop and recognize the volunteers who put an inordinate amount of time into making it what it is," Bivings said.

The museum's collection spans 230 years of history and fills three rooms of the Gwinnett Historic Courthouse in Lawrenceville.

The displays include weapons, photos, art, memorabilia and uniforms. Bivings said roughly 95 percent of the items have been contributed by Gwinnett residents.

The museum also represents every branch of the military, which is one of the reasons it so special to Dave Berndt.

"We all did different jobs, but there is one thing we have in common: We served our country and we did it proudly," said Berndt, who served on a Navy submarine and now volunteers at the museum.

Johnson, 85, served in the Women's Army Corps and now travels from her Snellville home every Thursday to help out at the museum.

"Coming over here is a labor of love," Johnson said.

For some of the volunteers, that labor of love is also a display of gratitude, even though these former servicemen and servicewomen appear to be the ones most deserving of thanks.

"The museum is our way to thank everybody in the public for allowing us to serve our country," Berndt said.