By Cheryl RodewigJune 19, 2009
More than 4,000 people celebrated the grand opening of the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center at Patriot Park today.
The 190,000-square-foot facility, which pays homage to the 234-year history of the American Infantryman is Aca,!A"much more than a mere memorial,Aca,!A? said keynote speaker GEN(R) Colin Powell, former Secretary of State and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Aca,!A"The word museum is entirely inadequate to describe it,Aca,!A? he said. Aca,!A"ItAca,!a,,cs the only attraction in the country to tell the story of the Infantry from the perspective of the Soldier. Aca,!A| There are individual war heroes, of course, but this place makes a hero of the Infantry itself Aca,!" the legions of anonymous patriots whom history does not record but whose service and sacrifice was crucial to the success of our country.Aca,!A?
The National Infantry Museum serves as both a reminder for Americans to honor service members and a salute to Infantrymen, the boots on the ground necessary to win any battle, Powell said.
Visitors to the museum toured the galleries, which feature a walk-through of AmericaAca,!a,,cs major conflicts. In one of these galleries, CPT Jacqueline Stilwell found a familiar face, that of her great-grandfather, GEN Joseph Stilwell, commander of the China, Burma and India theater during World War II.
Aca,!A"ItAca,!a,,cs pretty exciting,Aca,!A? she said. Aca,!A"I always learn something new about family, about him, about what he did, about who he worked with. ItAca,!a,,cs just really neat to see him honored in this way and all the Soldiers he fought with and trained and worked for. There so many artifacts, and the different setups give you a more real experience instead of just reading it in a book.Aca,!A?
Although history is part of the past, it is also part of the future, said her father, LTC(R) Joe Stilwell.
Aca,!A"ItAca,!a,,cs important to know what the history is, what the history was,Aca,!A? he said. Aca,!A"ItAca,!a,,cs for the future. ItAca,!a,,cs for people like my daughter to come find out what their dads did and to see where they worked and what it was all about.Aca,!A?
The museum, which features eight major galleries and the signature exhibit, The Last 100 Yards, chronicles the battles of Infantrymen from the Revolutionary War to the current theater of operations.
It is a fitting Aca,!A"birthday presentAca,!A? for the Infantry, which celebrated its 234th birthday Sunday, said MG Michael Barbero, post commanding general.
Aca,!A"For 234 years now, the Soldiers have led from the front,Aca,!A? Barbero said. Aca,!A"They stormed the beaches of Normandy. They plodded the frozen hills of Korea. They slogged through the oppressive heat of Vietnam. They stood as lonely sentinels on the frontiers of freedom during the Cold War. They fought in Grenada, Panama, Somalia, Kuwait. They parachuted into Qandahar, and they were the tip of the spear in Baghdad. This museum is dedicated to all of them, from the Continental Army through the greatest generation of World War II to the newest Infantrymen who graduated only moments ago.Aca,!A?
More than 200 Infantrymen in F Company, 2nd Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment, graduated from one station unit training when they marched across the Parade Field, part of the 200-acre Patriot Park.
Aca,!A"It is only fitting also that on this day we welcomed over 200 young Americans into this family of Soldiers,Aca,!A? Powell said. Aca,!A"These fine graduates are a tangible symbol of the millions who have answered the call to serve.Aca,!A?
If Americans forget the struggles faced by those who went before them, they will not be able to deal with the present or prepare for the future, Powell said.
Aca,!A"History gives us guideposts as to how to think about the future, recognizing that youAca,!a,,cre not going to repeat history, but history informs your judgment,Aca,!A? he said. Aca,!A"And history can become dull and dry if itAca,!a,,cs just left in books, but a place like this, you are seeing history living itself out, history in action.Aca,!A?