Today we’d like to introduce you to Cynthia Brown.
Cynthia, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
The purpose of this project is to celebrate the lives and contributions of the paratroopers who trained at Camp Toccoa on Currahee Mountain during World War II. Each of the boys who left that mountain as “Toccoa men” and those who have carried on the tradition of Currahee deserves to have their legacy preserved for generations to come. The Camp Toccoa at Currahee Project started as a dream that “should be” done and has now become a project that “must be” completed authentically for the stories of these true American heroes to be told on the hallowed ground where their lives were changed forever.
Many of us were not yet born when the paratroopers trained on that mountain and when the camp closed, the stories were buried in the memories of those who experienced it first-hand. Few of these men talked about the war until reaching the time in their lives when they began to share their stories with authors and, ultimately, with filmmakers. As the books and movies gained popularity, the significance of the actions of the “Toccoa men” and those who followed in their footsteps became apparent and the thirst for their stories led many to Currahee Mountain to learn more.
The Stephens County Historical Society was instrumental in preserving items given initially in honor of Camp Toccoa. As the popularity of the story and the numbers of donations of military items increased, the Society moved the museum to a larger facility in the historic train depot where the troops coming to Camp Toccoa arrived. The premiere of “Band of Brothers” brought international recognition to the paratroopers and Currahee Mountain and the numbers of visitors to Toccoa increased dramatically. An addition to the depot allowed the Society to accept the donation of a stable from Aldbourne, England, in addition to thousands of pieces of memorabilia given by veterans, their families, friends and admirers from all over the world. A second addition to the museum was necessary to house more of the items that contribute valuable information about the legacy of Currahee.
It was with great joy that the Stephens County Historical Society received the donation of almost six acres of original Camp Toccoa property from Pacolet-Milliken in 2011. In order to properly preserve the camp, a separate 501C3, Camp Toccoa at Currahee, Inc., was established in 2012. The last original building (now Regimental Headquarters) has been cleaned, painted, re-roofed, windows replaced and bathrooms and showers have been installed. We must add HVAC before we can place camp memorabilia in the facility so that we can properly preserve it. A Guard Shack has been erected on the property using original Camp Toccoa materials. A pavilion to seat 500 for educational opportunities and special events has been completed. The first of four barracks that will sleep 32 is under construction and the other three will be built as funding is available. In the future, a large bathhouse, maintenance facility, campground and caretaker’s cottage will be added if additional property and money is in hand.
Each year we celebrate our “Toccoa Men” and all others who follow in their footsteps. There is an annual banquet and “3 miles up, 3 miles down” run/walk on Currahee Mountain, this year on June 1 & 2. All proceeds are used to restore and reconstruct the home of the four PIR’s who trained there. Future generations deserve the opportunity to visit Camp Toccoa and see, hear and feel what those men learned and took with them as they served their country around the world.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
We began the project with a vision that surpassed our abilities to raise funds and acquire the property necessary to build an attraction. Our group of volunteers quickly realized that our mission was to authentically and appropriately rebuild the camp so that our visitors could have a “Camp Toccoa experience” in a way that told the real story of the men and their legacy of leadership.
We are all volunteers and it is difficult to be patient when we share a passion for seeing the camp return to life. Our group agreed that we would not begin construction on a facility until the money required is in hand. That means that we have to write grants, contact companies and corporations, hold fundraisers and special events, plan programs and tours and do much of the construction and maintenance work ourselves. This is not the quickest way to build a project but the ownership of donors and volunteers is priceless. As a result, we have investors from around the world who now “own” part of Camp Toccoa!
Please tell us about Camp Toccoa at Currahee.
The Camp Toccoa at Currahee Project is governed by a local steering committee and another group of volunteers from across the country with expertise in many areas affecting the project. We are a 501C3 non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the Legacy of Leadership of Camp Toccoa and the soldiers who follow in the footsteps of those original World War II paratroopers.
Our opportunities to honor our “Toccoa Men” include tours, special events, educational programs, promotion of the project and its history, construction and maintenance of facilities and grounds. Hopefully, we are known for our hospitality and passion for their stories and present them with genuine love and respect. We are probably most proud of the support from people who share our passion and feel a great sense of responsibility to utilize the funds, materials, supplies and labor carefully and respectfully.
When you look at this project you will probably wonder how something of this magnitude can be done by volunteers in a small town in Northeast Georgia. The reality is that Camp Toccoa at Currahee does not belong to this community; it belongs to the world. Without each of us committing to the project, the heritage and legacy of Currahee will be lost forever!
Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
Currahee Mountain was named by the Cherokees and the word means “stands alone”. The mountain is visible for miles. One of my favorite memories from childhood was returning from trips out of town and seeing Currahee in the distance. I knew at that point that I was home; I still do!
- Address: 2351 Ayersville Road
- Website: www.camptoccoaatcurrahee.com
- Phone: 706-282-5055
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Facebook: camptoccoaatcurrahee.org