Akron Beacon Journal
AKRON — Opening the doors of a half-dozen storage units in Canal Fulton reveals 11 pieces of vintage military equipment and one sparkling surprise that represents a major battle of World War II.
The unusual collectible is a newly refurbished, 20-year-old mobile Iwo Jima statue. Its figures, freshly repainted in their Marine uniforms, re-create the dramatic flag-raising on the Pacific Island in February 1945.
“I don’t know anybody who has a portable Iwo Jima memorial,” said Dick Mastin, owner of the piece and a member of the Marlboro Volunteers.
Based in Stark County’s Marlboro Township, the group of about 100 people maintains and repairs the equipment — including a WWII-era Stuart Tank — and takes the memorabilia to parades and educational displays across the region.
The collection totals nearly 70 wheeled military items.
“These are guys who collected old military equipment,” said Bob Manns, 84, a retired orthopedic surgeon from Jackson Township and an Army veteran who is a member of the Marlboro Volunteers. He served as a doctor at a recruiting station in West Virginia during the Korean War.
Manns helped to restore the Iwo Jima statue in his barn with North Canton sculptor and artist Don Lundstrom.
The Iwo Jima statue is now available for deployment to area county fairs and community events along with the Marlboro Volunteers’ 44-foot-long mobile museum, a wide-ranging display of American military history that is kept in an old moving van the volunteers own.
Mastin, 75, an Air Force veteran and a retired pilot for the Timken Co., owns numerous pieces of the vintage equipment. He obtained the Iwo Jima statue from the late Bill Bissler, a Marine veteran, for two vintage M1 carbines.
Lundstrom restored the hands and faces of the men in the piece, which is designed to look like the Marine Corps War Memorial at the entrance to Arlington National Cemetery. That statue features five Marines and a Navy Corpsman.
Marlboro Volunteers officials said there are only four Marines in their piece because that is all the room Bissler had when he made it originally.
Other equipment kept in the Canal Fulton storage units includes World War II-era and Vietnam-era Jeeps, two half-tracks, two M114 armored personnel carriers from the Vietnam era, a 37-mm anti-tank gun and a Gulf War-era ambulance.
Stored at a barn near Alliance are a half-dozen large military trucks and other pieces of equipment.
On busy holidays, like Memorial Day, several groups use Marlboro Volunteers equipment at a half-dozen parades in the region, Mastin said.
At a local county fair this year, 150,000 people walked through the group’s mobile history museum, he said.
Don Shaffer, 66, of Marlboro Township and one of the group’s directors, said its main goal is “to salute military veterans and educate the public.”
About 800 people attend the group’s Ride through History held every July near Alliance, said Shaffer, a retired Alliance fire lieutenant who served in the Army.
The mobile history museum went to 30 events this year.