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National Army museum honors America’s Soldiers

Wall in the museum with pictures and interactive displays The National Museum of the U.S. Army opened its doors to the public for the first time on Veterans Day - November 11, 2020. (Photo courtesy of the NMUSA.)

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The National Museum of the U.S. Army (NMUSA) opened its doors to the public for the first time on Veterans Day, November 11, 2020, displaying over 245 years of U.S. Army history. The museum is a joint U.S. Army-Army Historical Foundation construction effort, and sits on 84-acre on Ft. Belvoir, Virginia.

The museum’s 11 galleries display 12 exhibits, bringing to life the Army’s history and traditions during times of peace and war from the perspectives of soldiers.

“The Army is people. They are our greatest strength,” said the Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. James McConville. “The National Museum of the United States Army is designed to tell the compelling and heroic stories of our people and take visitors on an exciting journey through the history of the U.S. Army as told through the American soldiers’ point of view.”

Freestanding pylons – etched with the images of soldiers and their biographical information – are aligned in formation from the exterior, into the entryway, through the lobby, and to the Army Concourse. The soldiers’ stories are told in their own words and voices. As a place to commemorate and educate, the museum offers visitors the opportunity to connect with the significant role American soldiers have played in shaping the history of the United States.

“The Army & Society gallery addresses the influence that the Army has had on the American society and that society has had on the Army, which sometimes moved in parallel,” said Susan Smullen, the museum’s Public Affairs officer. “In this gallery, we discuss integration, gender roles, societal change, and Army innovations—including scientific, technological and medical.”

For example, a Sikorsky helicopter is displayed in the gallery to depict the story of how the Army recognized the importance of and adopted rotary aircraft into the military, Smullen explained.

“It was a soldier who recognized that he could get an injured soldier to medical attention more quickly if he helped transport that soldier on a helicopter, and it’s that soldier’s innovation that became the medevac [medical evacuation] we know today,” she said. “These are the types of stories we tell at the National Museum — the Army’s history through soldiers’ stories.”

NMUSA also offers educational experiences, including a state-of-the-art virtual reality and motion picture simulator space that will transport visitors through the Army experience, showcasing the Army’s role in building and defending the nation, humanitarian missions, and technological and medical breakthroughs achieved with Army ingenuity. The Experiential Learning Center (ELC), for example, provides an education-focused approach to teaching the history and heritage of the Army, including five experiential stations of interactive, hands-on activities that address geography, science, technology, engineering, and math (G-STEM).

“One of those stations is a medical tent where visitors can explore virtually diagnosing a patient, learn about the skeletal system, and explore an entire section on germs by looking at them through a microscope and on their own hands,” added Smullen.

“The U.S. Army and the American soldier forged the birth of our nation, stated Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy. “The National Army museum will be a place for members of the total Army family to gather and share their stories, while also creating an opportunity for visitors to connect with our nation’s history through the eyes and voices of individual soldiers.”

"It's hard to believe that this is the only museum to tell the entire history of our nation's great Army,” stated the 45th Surgeon General of the Army, Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle. “Like the rest of the Army family, I look forward to walking the galleries of the Army museum with my own family. Of course, I look forward to seeing the training center, as it has a medical simulation section that I'm excited about. I'm extremely proud to be a part of the world's greatest Army, and am confident the museum has done a fine job telling our story."

Admission to the museum is free to the public. Individual and groups of five or less visitors can reserve timed tickets in advance. Hours of operation are daily from 9 a.m.–5 p.m., except Christmas Day.

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