Gann Museum Unveils Saline County Veterans Display 

By Cody Berry

I decided to take a break from the old collection books and put together a tribute to our Saline County veterans. This display features three uniforms from three different wars, two swords from the 1800s, a mess kit and medal from a WWII hero who survived being a prisoner of war, and an officer’s cap from another participant in the Second World War. We also included some silk poppies, which have been a symbol of remembrance for veterans, dating back to WWI. 

PFC Jerry Dale Cantrell (1949-1969) was born in Benton, Arkansas on August 15, 1949, to Preston and Ella Mae Cantrell. During the Vietnam War, PFC Cantrell served his country in the U.S. Army. Sadly, he and three others were killed in action during Operation Idaho Canyon in Quang Tri province, South Vietnam on July 30, 1969. He was only 19 years old. PFC Cantrell’s uniform is adorned with medals and patches, among them is the Purple Heart. He was also memorialized forever on the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in Washington D.C. He was buried at Gravel Hill Cemetery in Saline County.1 

Hubert Chenault (1919-2004) was 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 Another legendary Saline County veteran represented in our display is Ewell Ross McCright (1917-1990). McCright was born on December 4, 1917, in Benton to Lewis Ross and Minnie Lee McCright. McCright enlisted in the U.S. Army in December 1940 and applied for aviation cadet training on June 21. 1941. On January 23, 1943, McCright’s B-17 was shot down by German fighters.3 

Seven crew members on McCright’s plane were killed but somehow, he and two fellow crew members survived. They were captured and forced to live as prisoners of war. In captivity, McCright secretly maintained four ledgers detailing the personal backgrounds and injuries of 2,194 fellow prisoners. These ledgers documented the accounts of the downed U.S. airmen confined to 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 1953.4 In our display, we have McCright’s Purple Heart medal and his mess kit with “U.S.” stamped cutlery. 

Our display also features two swords from the nineteenth century. One of them is a curved sword made by the Ames Manufacturing Company in Chicopee, Massachusetts. This sword’s blade is inscribed with the Ames name on one side and “U.S. J.H. 1850,” on the opposite side. The other sword was likely used by a Union officer during the American Civil War. A WWI uniform stands next to a bouquet of red poppies in tribute to veterans of “The Great War,” like Major Oscar Miller (1882-1918) who lived in Bryant as a boy. Major Miller was a Medal of Honor recipient who was killed during WWI in 1918.5 

[1] “Jerry Dale Cantrell,”, Date Accessed November 9, 2023 and “Jerry Dale Cantrell,”, Date Accessed November 9, 2023.

[2] “Hubert Chenault,” Arkansas Gravestones,, Date Accessed November 9, 2023.

[3] “Ewell Ross McCright (1917-1990),” CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas,, Date Accessed November 9, 2023.

[4] “Ewell Ross McCright (1917-1990),” CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas,, Date Accessed November 9, 2023.

[5] “Oscar Franklin Miller (1882-1918),” CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas,, Date Accessed November 9, 2023.