Video: Post 9/11 Marines to have their stories told in new museum exhibit space

By Caitlin M. Kenney

TRIANGLE, Va.–The newest generation of Marine veterans will now have the opportunity to see their story of service and sacrifice told in upcoming exhibit space at the National Museum of the Marine Corps.

The museum chronicles the history the Marine Corps over several wars, but currently, the exhibits only goes up to the end of the Vietnam War. The museum is in what they call their “Final Phase” of adding additional galleries that will cover events from after the Vietnam War up to today. Their most recent galleries to open during this phase were the Combat Art Gallery and a movie theater in July.

“The museum honors Marines. It certainly tells the history of the Marine Corps, but it honors the Marines who made that history. And that needed to be done, going back to the 10th of November of 1775 all the way up through the present day,” said Lt. Gen. Robert Blackman, (ret.), about why there was a need for a Marine Corps museum. Blackman is the President and CEO of the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, which helps raise money for the museum and other programs.

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A tour group walks out of the National Museum of the Marine Corps. (Photo by Caitlin M. Kenney)

“About 50 percent of our visitors have no connection whatsoever to any military service. And what this really provides is an overview of U.S. history,” said Blackman. “I mean, this is an American history museum simply seen through the eyes of Marines, from the birth of the nation up through the present day.”

The current displays in the galleries are a mix of museum displays and artifacts, to one of a full diorama of the Battle of Khe Sanh. Many of the display figures are extremely life-like, one Marine is even depicted with sweat rolling down his face as he lifted munitions.

The Marine Corps Heritage Foundation has conducted a major capital campaign over the past few years to raise money for the construction and completion of the gallery spaces, which are then handed over to the museum who then populate them with exhibits.

The importance of having the most recent conflicts depicted at the museum now instead of waiting for some time to pass was evident when the museum first opened in 2006, and Vietnam veterans were bringing their grandchildren, says Blackman.

“We were committed to ensure that generations that served after Vietnam were able to bring their children, especially those that served in Iraq and Afghanistan. I mean that is an extraordinary generation, many of whom saw three, four, five deployments in combat,” he said.

“And we were committed to ensure that their children, their spouses better understood why they were making sacrifices and really what that service meant in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

This gallery will include an FA-18 Hornet that flew around the National’s Capitol in the days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, as well as a streetscape from the Battle of Fallujah II. This area will be opening in 2018.

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The National Museum of the Marine Corps is seen behind an “Iron Mike” statue. (Photo by Caitlin M. Kenney)

In the coming years, the museum will also be opening several other galleries such as the Hall of Valor for Marines who received some of the military’s highest awards including the Medal of Honor, the Silver Star, and the Purple Heart.

And another will be a sports gallery representing those who distinguished themselves in sports, as well as those who have competed in the wounded warrior games.

Blackman hopes that visitors to the museum will take away from their experience “the extraordinary service that Marines have provided for 242 years to preserve the liberties that we enjoy in this country,” as well as “the virtues of Marines: honor, courage, commitment, selfless service and sacrifice.”

Check out a behind the scenes tour of the new gallery space for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Connect: @CaitlinMKenney | Caitlin@ConnectingVets.com

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