John Neal, Muralist at the Iowa Gold Star Museum, Camp Dodge, Iowa

I’d visited the old Iowa Gold Star Museum at Camp Dodge, Johnston, Iowa, several times, usually with Mom, so this new one was a compelling surprise. Curator Michael Vogt wrote an excellent introduction to the museum in the Iowa History Journal.

Artist John Neal (no relation) has completed several murals for this one, each one of which enhances the display it anchors.

Civil War

John’s Civil War mural is the backdrop for the Civil War display at the Gold Star Museum.

Michael Vogt was recently interviewed about Iowa in the Civil War.


World War I

The damaged storefront houses a display of a WWI trench at night.

Artist John Neal next to his mural of a morning sky over a French airfield. They did have a couple of lion cubs as mascots.


World War II

The first photo shows the mural for the Pacific Theater exhibit, of landing on a Pacific Island. The second one is the completed exhibit.

The day my husband and I visited, John and his son Cameron (who is also an artist and musician) were working on the WWII mural. Nearby were several books they used for research.

Korean War

The nose of this F-86, like the one piloted by Iowan Capt. Hal Fischer, is a fabrication. John completed the rest of the fighter on the curved wall of the exhibit. Marsden matting was used for runways and taxiways.

Vietnam War

The completed Vietnam War exhibit with a mural by John Neal, who did a lot of research as he worked on each display.

Cold War

This amazing exhibit is a replica of a nuclear submarine conning tower, with one of John’s murals wrapped around inside.

Here’s an award-winning virtual tour of the museum.

John Neal’s website shows more of his handsome and engaging artwork.

The Gold Star Museum has a YouTube Channel. The clips are not long, well-edited, treasures for all of us. If you enjoy them, please Like, Share and Subscribe.

Autographed copies of Leora’s Letters: The Story of Love and Loss for an Iowa Family During World War II  have been donated so the Gold Star Museum may benefit from the proceeds. Find it in their gift shop.


  1. It’s amazing what a good artist can do! I’ve been privileged to work with several of those talented people. Dave Schuppert, a Vietnam War USMC vet (; John Roberts, an Army National Guardsman (; and Preston Gravely, a vet of both the Navy (aircraft carrier) and Army (artillery and chaplain). Preston did art work for one of my books (internal illustrations) and the cover art for two others. Thanks for sharing the work of another talented artist.

  2. Very nice. I love the mural. It reminded me of some dioramas I saw at a Vietnam Veteran’s Day in Raleigh, NC a few year ago. They were done by a Vietnam Veteran and depicted the Chu Chi tunnels and other “scenes” from the war. The same artist had also written a play based on the Vietnam Memorial that was being performed at the event. That play was moving beyond belief. It has always been so paradoxical to me, that out of such violence and chaos, some of the most moving and beautiful art can be created.

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