Soldier stories to be shared with all at new museum

| March 22, 2018 | 0 Comments

Aerial view of the National Museum of the United States Army taken in February. (Photo courtesy of retired Col. Duane Lempke)

David Vergun
Army News Service

FORT BELVOIR, Va. — Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper visited the construction site of the National Museum of the United States Army, here, on Tuesday.

“Every Soldier has a story to tell, and this museum will allow their stories to be shared with all Americans through their eyes and ears and voices,” he said, adding that it was more important than ever for the Army to tell its story because few Americans today are veterans and many don’t know or understand the sacrifices made by Soldiers to protect the nation.

He said he hoped the museum would provide a way for future generations of Americans to learn about the Army’s history, which is the history of America, and appreciate the Army’s role in safeguarding the nation.

He pointed out that the nation’s earliest militias were formed even prior to the founding of the republic.

“I hope that the museum will inspire others to consider the Army as a career or at least to appreciate it for all it’s given back to society,” he said.

Esper, who served in the regular Army, the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve, said he was pleased that planned exhibits included Soldier stories from all three components. As he walked through the four-story structure, he said he was eager for the museum to open in about two years so he could visit the quiet reflective area known as the Medal of Honor Garden, which will be located on the third floor.He said he also looked forward to seeing are some of the tanks and fighting vehicles.

As it turned out, those macro artifacts were already in the museum, said Tammy E. Call, the museum’s director, indicating large plywood crates housing two tanks, an LCVP (landing craft, vehicle, personnel) and a Bradley fighting vehicle. These exhibits would be too big to fit through the museum’s front entrance so they were put in place early and the museum will be built around them.
The Army and Society Gallery, which will include stories of Soldier innovations, also piqued Esper’s interest. He pointed out that Soldiers have been involved in groundbreaking science and technology advances throughout history, from aircraft to trauma medicine.

“Their innovations span virtually every industry,” he said.

In addition to Army-related exhibits, Call said, the museum will have an Experiential Learning Center, where students can study science and technology through such things as bridge building, satellites, unmanned aerial vehicles and Army medicine.
Within that center, she said, there will be a special hands-on area for younger children called “Fort Discover.” Here, children will play with and learn about things such as radios, jeeps and rockets. Inside, there will even be a miniature military fort in which they can play in and climb on.There will also be a 300-degree viewing theater that can seat 128 guests, she said. The film shown there will create an immersive experience and introduce the Army and the museum to visitors.

For groups of visiting Soldiers and others, the museum galleries will provide opportunities for professional development where they can study lessons learned in warfare and changes to equipment and tactics over the Army’s history, she said, adding that understanding will contribute to current readiness.

The 185,000-square-foot National Museum of the United States Army is being built on 84 acres of property at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Visitors to Washington, D.C., will find the museum is just a short drive away, only 15 miles south of the Pentagon, and just 6 miles from Mount Vernon – home to President George Washington. The museum is also accessible via public transportation.

The Army Historical Foundation is constructing the building through private funds, Call noted. The U.S. Army is providing the infrastructure, roads and utilities, then installing the artifacts and exhibits that transform the building into a museum.
The Army will own and operate the museum and admission will be free.

(Follow David Vergun on Twitter: @vergunARNEWS.)

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