Focused on Mississippi: Freedom Hall in Collins

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COLLINS, Miss. (WHLT) – Tom Brooks has his military career memorabilia on display close to his home in Collins. For most of his 30 years in the Army, he was a recruiter.

“Taught me a lot about myself- taught me about what I was made out of. Just what am I able to do? Can I deal with rejection? Can I make opportunities out of challenges?” explained Brooks.

Well, personal growth isn’t all Brooks got from his career. He and his wife, Wanda, traveled all over the world, met all sorts of people, and he received all sorts of commendations and awards and gifts. Items he has put on display in a building beside his home in Collins that he calls Freedom Hall.

Gifts like flags that have flown over the nation’s Capitol Building, the Pentagon and also the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington Cemetery. Brooks has a replica of the Army Recruiting Station like the one where he started his career in Greenwood. And artifacts and commendations and letters from Presidents and other interesting items, like Brooks’ Challenge Coin Collection. Sort of like calling cards only struck from metal, passed on to people deemed worthy recipients at special personal times. Elvis got a Challenge Coin when he reported for duty after he was drafted.

“And you got that coin to remind them of that moment.”

There are lots of moments and lots of items in here to remind Brooks of his career, like a couple of chunks of the Berlin Wall presented to him when he was stationed in Germany. There is a genuine Bowie knife and an antique revolver that came into Brooks’ hands over the years. But what does his museum say most clearly?

“This is proof positive that Tom Brooks was on this earth.”

That’s it. A legacy. That’s a great deal of what living comes down to, after you pay the bills and raise the kids, to somehow leave your mark. And make it a positive mark. Tom Brooks’ “mark” is what you’ll see in Freedom Hall, the legacy of a lifetime.

Brooks has also written a book he calls “We Never Did it That Way Before.” It’s about his career and his observations on the nation, the military and life in general.

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