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Army museum delayed to 2018; more funds needed to build it

Jun. 30, 2014 - 05:42PM   |  
An illustration of the National Museum of the United States Army, set to be built at Fort Belvoir, Va.
An illustration of the National Museum of the United States Army, set to be built at Fort Belvoir, Va. (Courtesy of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and Eisterh)
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What’s inside

Some features planned for the National Museum of the United States Army:
■A 7,500-foot lobby that can be used for special events and ceremonies.
■Wall of Honor: This commemorates the Army’s 11 wars and 187 campaigns.
■Visitors can take part in a simulated rescue mission at the Experiential Learning Center, an interactive space for exploring geography, science, technology, engineering and math, or GSTEM. Smart tables give visitors a shot at competing on projects such as bridge building and medical missions.
■Medal of Honor Garden, an outdoor space honoring the recipients of the nation’s highest award for valor with displays telling their stories.
■Army and Society Gallery, which will explore the Army’s contributions to American society.
■Galleries including Soldiers’ Stories, Fighting for the Nation, Founding the Nation, Preserving the Nation, Nation Oversees, Global War, Cold War and Uncertain Battlefield.
■The 360-degree Army Theater, surrounding visitors in sights and sounds.
■Veterans’ Hall, a multipurpose space available for veterans’ reunions, dinners, official functions and other events. The Registry of the American Soldier will be one of its interactive features.
■Fort Discover, designed for kids to be part of a team, dress in camo and keep the fort going.
■Gift shop, cafe and terrace.
How To Put Your Name In, And On, Your Museum
The building doesn’t exist yet, but soldiers, families and civilians can be part of the museum now. A few ways to do that:
Tell a story: The Registry of the American Soldier is a growing collection of online soldier narratives.
Soldiers, family members, or friends can go online to open a registry entry that tells the story of an individual soldier, past or present. The soldiers can be active, Army Reserve or Army National Guard. Photos of the soldiers are welcome. There is no fee.
The registry recently reached 100,000 soldiers, said officials with the Association of the United States Army. The 100,000th was enrolled by his Gold Star mother.
Soldiers’ histories will be preserved in the searchable registry, on permanent display.
To register, go to
www.armyhistory.org
, then click on the tab “Soldier’s Registry.”
Make a donation: Individuals, corporations and foundations may donate any amount they choose. Some have given $10. Boeing and General Dynamics have given $5 million each.
To donate, go to
www.armyhistory.org
and see the Donate tab.
Buy a brick: Anyone can order personalized, commemorative bricks that will be placed in the walkway leading up to the museum entrance.
These can be inscribed with names, service information, or commemorate an event, or send an inspirational message. Some people have honored their wives or buddies. One West Point class bought a group of bricks.
A 4-x-8-inch brick, with one to three lines of 20 characters of customized text, is $250.
An 8-x 8-inch brick, with up to six lines of 20 characters, is $500.
Go to https://armyhistory.org/bricks to find out more.

The long-awaited National Museum of the United States Army is scheduled to open in 2018 as a focal point for this generation of soldiers and future ones.

The target for opening the museum near Washington, D.C., has been delayed three years beyond an earlier estimate of 2015, which is now the expected time frame for breaking ground.

The opening date comes with one caveat: organizers still need the money.

The museum project has $81 million so far, and needs $33 million more before work can begin. At that point the government can release $25 million authorized for site preparation, said retired Gen. William Hartzog, president of the Army Historical Foundation, which supports the museum and fundraising efforts.

A total of $175 million is needed for the museum to be fully open to the public, said retired Col. Dave Fabian,the foundation’s director of communications.

This landmark for all U.S. soldiers is long overdue, leaders say, and it has the emphatic endorsement of the Army’s No. 2 officer.

“The museum is important for the same reason I carried 235 cards in my pocket, in my rucksack in Afghanistan ... one dedicated to each soldier who was killed in my command as the RC East commander in Afghanistan in 2010-2011,” said Vice Chief of Staff Gen. John Campbell on June 16. “It reminds us of the horrors of war, it reminds me of sacrifices of the soldier and the family ... a museum would help us really honor that sacrifice.”

“And we have to get there. We have to get there.”

The museum is needed not only for the Army community, but for the politicians and the American public who will have to understand the service in order to support it, Campbell said during an event at the Association of the United States Army headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.

The vice chief said many Americans forget what the Army has done for them. For example, he said he recently spoke with a group of citizens about World War II, and gave them the kind of message that is bound to be told at the museum.

“One of them said, ‘Hey, the Marines won World War II in the Pacific, right?’ I said, what?,” Campbell recalled. “The Marines did a great job and I don’t want to downsize or minimize their contributions at Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, all the islands they fought and died to secure. But 21 Army divisions fought in the Pacific theater, sustained over 190,000 casualties ... add 24,000 from the Army Air Corps. The Army conducted more amphibious assaults than the Marines. It was a joint effort, but my point is it was predominantly an Army land effort. A lot of people don’t understand that.”

In the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, 60 percent of the service members in those countries were soldiers, Campbell said, and 10 of the 14 Medals of Honor have gone to soldiers.

“We have to get that word out to the American public,” he said. “Yet the other branches of our military have far outdone the Army in honoring their contributions and their service at the national level.”

The nation’s largest military branch is the last one to have its own national museum. The Navy’s national museum was established in 1963, he said. The Air Force’s museum is breaking ground on the fourth hangar of the museum complex. The Coast Guard museum had its groundbreaking in May.

“The 135-acre campus of the Marine Corps Museum, you see that and say ‘wow,’ ” Campbell said. “The Air Force has been around for 66 years. The Army has been around for 239 years. It is time, it is important that the greatest Army in the world have a great museum.”

Out of the warehouse

The 185,000-square-foot museum will occupy 41 acres the Army provided at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. The site will eventually include a parade ground, amphitheater and memorial garden.

The Army Corps of Engineers may do the construction, Fabian said, and it is possible “gifts in kind” may be used to offset costs. An example of gifts in kind, he said, could involve a company bringing in construction equipment to use during the building phase, or a high-tech company doing software for the museum.

Design and planning of exhibits is 95 percent complete.

A focal point will be the Soldiers’ Stories interactive exhibit in an entry gallery with a formation of freestanding vertical pylons displaying larger-than-life images of the soldiers’ faces, along with their service histories and personal narratives.

The Army’s museum must have big exhibits, too, including a Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel or LCVP, that landed troops in Europe and the Pacific; a UH-1B Iroquois Utility Helicopter, or Huey, from the Vietnam era; a Liberty Truck designed in the World War I era.

The collection has about 50,000 artifacts, enough items that the museum could have themed exhibits, such as Vietnam, medics or chaplains, Fabian said.

The Army’s archive also includes the American flag displayed at the Pentagon after the 9/11 attack, Campbell said.

“The next generation of Americans may forget the Pentagon was even attacked or that we lost 125 service members and civilians that day, and we need to remind Americans of that day, and the sacrifice our soldiers have made over the last 12 years, and also the last 239 years,” he said.

“Having these items in a warehouse, I believe ... is a disservice to that memory.”

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