Gann Museum display honors local veterans
By Scarlett Castleberry & Destin Davis
Cody Berry, the new special collections assistant for the Saline County Library, has been digging through the trenches of the Gann Museum and the library, putting together the scrambled pieces of Saline County’s history.
“I decided to take a break from the old collection books and put together a tribute to our Saline County veterans,” said Berry.
In honor of Veterans Day, Berry put together a display at the museum featuring items from three different wars, including two nineteenthcentury swords, uniforms, and other military regalia of Saline County residents who served.
The uniform on the far right once belonged to PFC Jerry Dale Cantrell (1949-1969). Born in Benton on Aug. 15, 1949, to Preston and Ella Mae, Cantrell served in the army during the Vietnam War. He and three others were killed in action during Operation Idaho Canyon in Quang Tri province, South Vietnam on July 30, 1969, when he was 19 years old.
Cantrell’s uniform has been decorated with medals and patches he earned, including the Purple Heart.
He was memorialized forever on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington
D.C. and buried at Gravel Hill Cemetery in Saline County.
The U.S. Navy uniform in the middle belonged to Hubert Chenault (1919-2004). Chenault served as an alderman on the Benton City
Council for 20 years.
“Chenault’s blue sailor’s uniform was likely worn when he served as a gunner’s mate on the USS Shangri-La aircraft carrier in the Pacific Theater during WWII 2,” said Berry.
The World World II uniform on the far left belonged to Ewell Ross McCright (1917-1990). McCright was born on Dec. 4, 1917, in Benton to Lewis Ross and Minnie Lee McCright. In December 1940, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and applied for aviation cadet training on June 21. 1941.
On Jan. 23, 1943, McCright’s B-17 was shot down by German fighters.
“Seven crew members on McCright’s plane were killed but somehow, he and two fellow crew members survived,” said Berry.
The men were then taken as prisoners of war. During his time as a POW, McCright secretly kept accounts detailing the personal backgrounds and injuries of 2,194 fellow prisoners, including the accounts of the U.S. airmen trapped at the Buchenwald Concentration Camp.
“After the war, McCright graduated from the University of Arkansas School of Law and served in the state House of Representatives from 1951 to 1953.
“In our display, we have McCright’s Purple Heart medal and his mess kit with ‘U.S.’ stamped cutlery,” said Berry.
Berry added a bouquet of silk poppies to the exhibit, which have been a symbol of remembrance for veterans, dating back to WWI.
Berry has organized and digitized countless records already.
“My family has been here forever. I grew up on this side of town, went to college, and came back, and here I am,” said Berry, who worked for a time at UAMS in Benton before he started filling in at the library and was eventually named the
new special collections assistant.
Since starting at the GANN Museum, Berry has started several projects of his own.
Currently, Berry is digitizing several items from the GANN Museum’s archives. Included in those archives are thousands of original photos from past editions of The Saline Courier.
The archive of photos already includes
746 pictures from the Benton Courier collection and 348 political figures from the county’s past are available on the Saline County Library website.
The photos are available online through the Saline County Library’s website. The collection highlights photos from times at schools throughout the county, from rodeos to photos that capture the essence of everyday life from Saline County’s past.
“I’ve done ten years of archiving in a couple of weeks,” said Berry. “All the ones that I’ve scanned so far you can view them on the library website and every Wednesday on social media we post a picture.”
When posting the pictures to Saline County Library’s social media pages, if the people in the photograph are unknown, the library and GANN museum rely on residents to help identify people.
“Most of them, we have no idea who the people are,” added Berry.
The pictures are scanned with a highresolution scanner so they are digitized in the best quality possible.
“Eventually, I want to make it where you can go to the library website, find the GANN museum section, and there you can find whatever you want,”
said Berry. “It’s the first time it’s ever been done in Saline County because when you read books about this stuff, the history kind of stops at World War
II. But a lot’s happened since then, there is a lot of history in Benton.”
Alberta Newspaper Group