Tropic Lightning Museum offers visitors personal Soldier histories
March 23, 2010
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii -- Aca,!A"I was surprised to realize I could still remember that officerAca,!a,,cs name. His name was Lieutenant Blue. Apparently, I was so impressed by this strange event where this man had almost seemed to predict his own death, which had then occurred at the hands of (a sniper I had previously encountered). So impressed that his name could be recalled after 40 years, even though I had never met him and had only heard his name that one time.Aca,!A?
~ Retired Master Sgt. William C. Francis, 25th Reconnaissance Troop, Korea, 1944
First-hand experiences such as those expressed by Williams are only a fraction of the tales of retired Tropic Lightning heroes. All Aca,!Eoetaro leafAca,!a,,c veterans have stories to tell, as do the relics on display at the 25th Infantry DivisionAca,!a,,cs Tropic Lightning Museum at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.
The Tropic Lightning Museum began as a small collection of items and trophies from the divisionAca,!a,,cs participation in by the 25th Infantry Division Association in 1956 and experienced decades of renovations and expansions. During the fall of 1984, the Tropic Lightning Museum, then known as the Tropic Lightning Historical Center, was relocated to the former post library.
The building itself has its own history to match the history which it shares with thousands of veterans, Soldiers, and family members yearly. Originally a much smaller building, the post library was designed as a place for Soldiers to relax and enjoy recreational activities and has the distinction of being the only building on post made principally of lava rock. Soon after the museum relocated to the building and expanded several times over the years to accommodate the ever-growing collection of Tropic Lightning history.
Since that time, the Tropic Lightning Museum has offered a history of the division unique to itself through the use of personal histories.
While technical manuals and military accounts of past wars and conflicts can tell stories of the meaning of each exhibit on display, itAca,!a,,cs the personal stories, recounted by the Tropic Lightning veterans who lived, sacrificed and triumphed through these difficult times, succeed in drawing visitors into a more personal tale.
Aca,!A"We cover the history of the division, and Wheeler Army Airfield and Schofield Barracks,Aca,!A? said Kathleen Ramsden, the curator for the Tropic Lightning Museum. Aca,!A"Depending on deployments, we get anywhere between 10-12 thousand visitors a year, which is pretty good for a small museum.Aca,!A?
Accompanying a majority of the exhibits, are first-hand accounts of the environment, challenges and strife of the 25th Infantry Division campaigns through World War II, Korea and Vietnam. These are displayed on the pages of the Tropic Lightning MuseumAca,!a,,cs Aca,!A"The Way it Was: Memoirs and Recollections,Aca,!A? a collection of stories and tales penned by division veterans throughout the Pacific Theater.
Aca,!A"We ask visiting veterans, should they wish to do so, to display a first-person account and send a photograph of themselves during the time that they served so that we can then chronicle their experiences in the exhibits for other visitors,Aca,!A? said Ramsden.
Aca,!A"The displays allow veterans to connect with certain pieces on a personal level at times,Aca,!A? Ramsden said. Aca,!A"They spark memories for them.Aca,!A?
Authentic weapons, artifacts, and memorabilia from each of the divisionAca,!a,,cs combat campaigns are displayed, to include myriad firearms, weaponry and communication devices utilized by Tropic Lightning Soldiers.
According to Ramsden, many items were donated by veterans and family members many years after their service including uniforms, smart books, and government-issued supplies, sharing a more personal history with visitors of the museum. While these items may not seem to be much at a glance, the history behind each item is of significant personal value for a former Soldier.
Aca,!A"Someone might bring in an old uniform from a relative wore during the divisionAca,!a,,cs time in Guadalcanal that they had up in an attic somewhere,Aca,!A? said Ramsden. Aca,!A"The objects have stories behind them, which is what really makes the item important.Aca,!A?
Relics from years past, these weapons are displayed in each of the divisionAca,!a,,cs eras of combat, from WWII until present. Ramsden spoke in detail on recently donated item to exemplify the significance of each artifact.
Aca,!A"One item we have on display is a Mauser given to Colonel Piatt and 3rd Brigade in appreciation for their partnership and friendship with the Iraqi people during their deployment,Aca,!A? said Ramsden. Aca,!A"The meaning behind the gift add to the importance of what the object represents and the object itself may not be as important as the meaning behind it represents.Aca,!A?
Aca,!A"We want to chronicle our SoldiersAca,!a,,c lives,Aca,!A? said Ramsden. Aca,!A"WeAca,!a,,cll get Soldiers who were cooks, or photographers, or colonels, and itAca,!a,,cs interesting to read what they think was memorable enough to share with other guests.Aca,!A?
Among the other displays offered by the museum are visual histories of the history of Schofield Barracks. The timeline, told through photos, displays, and documented stories, illustrates life on the post from its formation as a temporary camp in December of 1908 through the present.
Aca,!A"We have stories about what life was like to live on Schofield during, what I like to call, Aca,!Eoethe pioneering days.Aca,!a,,cAca,!A? said Ramsden. Aca,!A"Before there was running water and roads. There were tents and life was hard when they first got here.Aca,!A?
Like Schofield Barracks over the years, the history of the Tropic Lightning Division is constantly growing. As such, plans are in place to ensure the Tropic Lightning Museum is able to facilitate the continual growth of the divisionAca,!a,,cs lore.
Ramsden looks forward to the planned expansion of the museum to increase the number of displays and expand display to honor the divisionAca,!a,,cs current combat effort. Aca,!A"WeAca,!a,,cre currently working on our east wing where weAca,!a,,cre going to try to do an expansion,Aca,!A? said Ramsden.
Ramsden believes Schofield Barracks is unique for itAca,!a,,cs continuous history.
Aca,!A"Because weAca,!a,,cre such an active post, weAca,!a,,cre consistently growing,Aca,!A? Ramsden said. Aca,!A"Our history isnAca,!a,,ct a static history. It doesnAca,!a,,ct stop or slow down at certain times, weAca,!a,,cre constantly adding to our history.Aca,!A?