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Indiana War Memorial Exhibits Honor Former Governors

The exhibit at the Indiana War Memorial honors veterans and former governors Edgar Whitcomb and Joe Kernan.

Joe Kernan

Photo: Sam Klemet/WFYI

Joe Kernan speaks at the dedication of an exhibit at the Indiana War Memorial in his honor. He served as governor from 2003 to 2005.

Two new exhibits at the Indiana War Memorial honor a pair of military heroes who each went on to become governor.

Exhibits featuring memorabilia from Edgar Whitcomb and Joe Kernan opened today at the War Memorial.

They join an exhibit opened last year honoring former Senator Dick Lugar.

“These three that we‘ve selected are great examples of leading two different lives and being successful in both of them,” said Stewart Goodwin, the War Memorial‘s executive director said about their exhibits honoring veterans who went on to careers in public service.

Whitcomb, 96, and Kernan, 67 both attended the dedication, a rare public appearance for Whitcomb, who was governor from 1969 to 1973.

Whitcomb served in the U.S. Army and later as the state’s 43rd governor.

During World War II, Whitcomb served in the Army Air Corps in the Pacific Theater, and he was a prisoner of war twice.

“He was captured at Corregidor, escaped, was captured again and escaped a second time,” said Goodwin, noting that Whitcomb used an alias to get into China after his second escape.

After his term as governor, Whitcomb ran for the U.S. Senate in 1976. He lost the Republican primary to Lugar, who would go on to serve six terms.

Kernan served as a Navy flight officer during the Vietnam War, and he was taken prisoner when his plane was shot down during a reconnaissance mission in May 1972. One of the items on display at the exhibit is a painting of the aircraft he was in at the time.

“[My wife] Maggie would never let me hang it up in the house because it would bring back bad memories for her, so we ended up donation the painting,” Kernan says.

The state’s 48th governor is an avid baseball fan and says having an exhibit for him is an honor that came out of left field.

During a ceremony for the two men, current Governor Mike Pence told them their work defines the Hoosier spirit.

“Years and years from now your contribution and your inspiration will go forward,” Pence said.  ”As young Hoosiers pass through these hallways and think of how they might serve their nation and their state by your example.”

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