HEARTS museum names new leaders

SubmittedTara Burnett, left, was recently named the new executive director at the HEARTS Veterans Museum of Texas in Huntsville, while Kenneth Lee was named the president of the board of directors. 

The HEARTS Veterans Museum of Texas is officially under new leadership.

The museum’s board of directors selected Kennth Lee as board president, Thomas Leeper as vice president and Tara Burnett as the new executive director. Burnett, who has served as the administrative assistant at the museum for years, takes over for former executive director Tom Fordyce.

“The leadership at the museum has been great and we are so thankful for the smooth transition from the great leadership of former executive directorTom Fordyce, who is a US Marine Corp veteran,” said board secretary Liesa Hackett. “A big thanks for dedication and commitment to former board president Col. Dennis Beal, US Marine Corp Retired. “Their leadership along with others the past 12 years has brought the museum to be known as a great place to visit throughout Texas.”

Other board members include Bette Nelson, Charlotte Oleinik and Lt. Col. David Yebra.

Lee grew up in Nacogdoches and retired from the U.S. Marine Corps. He is a Vietnam War veteran and a former officer with the Dallas Police Department. Lee retired from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) after 26 years and has been called back for special assignments. He is also an active member of the American Legion Post #95 & Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #5871.

Ken started volunteering at the museum many years ago and has chosen to get more and more involved to help the museum grow.

“Seeing what the museum was about, helping veterans as well as active duty and educating the public, I decided that I wanted to be a part of it,” Lee said.

Lee has been married to his wife, Judy for 53 years, they have two sons, two daughters-in-law and five grandchildren.

Leeper has volunteered for the museum for nearly 15 years, with his father serving in the Italian Theatre in the U.S. Army during World War I and his grandfather serving in the U.S. Army during World War II.

“Serving at the museum is my way to say thank you to veterans, especially those from our own community,” Leeper said.

Currently, Leeper is the first assistant city attorney in Bryan. Before that appointment, he was in private practice, and served as the city attorney for the city of Huntsville and a board mMember on the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.

Burnett has been a Huntsville resident for 25 years, and began volunteering at the museum to honor those who served. She started taking her children to the mall to see and learn about our military history and when the museum opened, she was compelled to volunteer her time.

Tara worked as the administrative assistant, but now as executive director she says that her mission is to continue helping grow and educate the community on military history and to help as many veterans along the way.

“I have one of the best jobs ever, I am amongst heroes everyday,” Burnett added.

Tara has been married to her husband Roger for 21 years. She’s the mother of five children and one of her sons is now a Sergeant, proudly serving in the U.S. Army.

“We are very grateful to have them as each one brings deep community knowledge, a passion for the museum and the desire to visualize an ambitious future for the museum and the history of our military,” Hackett said.

The HEARTS Veterans Museum, located at 463 Hwy. 75 in Huntsville, is open from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The museum is always welcome anyone willing and available to volunteer their time to assist with tours and events. For inquiries on volunteer opportunities, please call (936) 295-5959.