Where We Live: Oregon Military Museum

Brigadier General James B. Thayer is one of Oregon's most decorated war heroes

Brigadier General James B. Thayer. (Courtesy photo)
Brigadier General James B. Thayer. (Courtesy photo)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Thousands of Oregonians have served with distinction in this nation’s wars. A world-class museum paying tribute to them is under construction right now.

The Oregon Military Museum was named after one of Oregon’s greatest war heroes. Now his famous son, Tommy Thayer of KISS, is helping make that museum a reality in this place where we live.

The Oregon Military Museum project

Brigadier General James B. Thayer is one of Oregon’s most decorated war heroes. His many military honors include the silver and bronze stars.

Brigadier General James B. Thayer. (Courtesy photo)
Brigadier General James B. Thayer. (Courtesy photo)

“My dad is going to be 95-years-old in about a month, and he’s just an amazing man that we all admire, and I love very much,” Tommy Thayer told KOIN.

In 1945, during WWII, James Thayer’s platoon engaged in brutal hand-to-hand combat with German SS troops, liberating prisoners from a concentration camp in Austria.

“And what they found there was just a horrific scene,” Tommy said. “But they helped save the lives of about 15,000 Hungarian Jewish refugees that day.”

Thayer’s heroism is why the $20 million Oregon Military Museum will bear his name. The three buildings at the Oregon National Guard’s Camp Withycombe in Clackamas will house artifacts, weapons and stories of Oregon’s fighting men and women going back to the 1800s.

“It’s really important to have a  place like this, so we can keep those stories alive well into the future,” said Amy Maxwell with the Oregon Military Museum project.

Tommy Thayer (right) and Gene Simmons of KISS. (Courtesy photo)
Tommy Thayer (right) and Gene Simmons of KISS. (Courtesy photo)

The museum is 70% complete and the fundraising is about halfway there. Tommy’s friends are helping get to the finish line. Fellow KISS band members Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley and Eric Singer are big supporters of veterans.

They’ve already helped raise more than $1 million and they’re pitching in to raise even more with help from fans. The hope is to open the museum before the end of 2017.

“I want Dad to be here to see it,” Tommy said. “It’s really important to me. For the grand opening, we need to see Brigadier General James Thayer.”

On Saturday, February 18, Tommy will host an all-star salute to the Oregon Military, as a major fundraiser for the museum. Members of KISS will perform alongside legendary rockers Alice Cooper, Robby Kreiger from the Doors and Danny Seraphine of Chicago. The show is at the Exchange Ballroom in NE Portland and includes a high-end auction.

James Thayer (center) and his family. (Courtesy photo)
James Thayer (center) and his family. (Courtesy photo)