FORT BELVOIR, Va. -- The National Museum of the U.S. Army celebrated its grand opening on an overcast Veterans Day in an empty auditorium on Wednesday afternoon.Army leaders paid tribute to the sacrifices of Soldiers during a ceremony that was closed to the public due to pandemic safety restrictions.The museum highlights the individual stories of Soldiers, from accounts on the front lines during World Wars I and II to Medal of Honor recipients’ tales of valor. Soldiers’ achievements will be featured in the exhibit halls of this sprawling, 185,000-square-foot building with exhibits and displays that date back to the Army’s inception in 1775.“The Army’s history is America’s history,” said Army Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville. “The Army has been here since before the birth of our nation … The Army museum has done an incredible job of bringing to life, the inspirational stories of service and sacrifice of American Soldiers.”The Army and the nonprofit Army Historical Foundation coordinated the effort while the Army Corps of Engineers performed the construction of the steel and glass facility.McConville has emphasized that individual Soldiers -- the Army’s people -- are the backbone of the Army. The museum enshrines the accomplishments of Soldiers in the aptly-named Soldier Stories Gallery. Soldiers’ bravery will be further brought to life with figures, artifacts and documentaries and the Fight for the Nation Galleries and Army and Society Gallery.The museum features displays from major conflicts including the Civil War, the Vietnam War, Operation Desert Storm and the global war on terrorism.“Ordinary men and women from every corner of the country in every walk of life, achieve the extraordinary,” said Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy, who served in the 75th Ranger Regiment during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. “This living museum will help their sacrifice endure for the ages and serves as a repository for all Americans to honor our heroes, and inspire the next generation of free men and women to serve.”The facility provides exhibits and activities for families including the interactive Experimental Learning Center, which teaches children in the areas of geography, math, science, technology and engineering.Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley recalled the Meuse–Argonne offensive in France during World War I, where 26,000 American Soldiers perished during 47 days of fighting. According to the museum’s website, the Nation Overseas exhibit highlights America's role in World War I and its first venture into the world stage with a display of the wooden gas alarm used to alert troops to the presence of poisonous gas and the German 08/15 machine gun, which was the standard machine gun of the First World War.“We cannot truly appreciate the sacrifice of our Soldiers in the Continental Army to today or comprehend what they went through unless we see the weapons they use, feel the uniforms they wore, hear the stories they told or read the letters they wrote,” Milley said. “But we can come here and we can see the relics and hear the stories through the eyes and the voices of the individual Soldiers who endured so much for the cause of freedom and their unrelenting devotion.”Army leaders also honored the late Gen. William W. Hartzog, the former Army Training and Doctrine Command commander who helped lead the push to build the museum as president and chairman of the Army Historical Foundation. Hartzog passed away on Oct. 15 at age 79.Soldier of the Year Sgt. James Akinola, a combat medic from Fort Jackson, South Carolina, presented the sword for the ceremonial ribbon cutting. Safety restrictions, including monitoring of visitor capacity have been implemented at the museum, which sits in a publicly-accessible area of Fort Belvoir. Free, timed-entry tickets will be used to manage capacity.For information on tours or how to acquire tickets, visit: Links:National Museum of the U.S. ArmyNational Museum of the United States Army to open Veterans Day Worldwide NewsArmy News ServiceARNEWS Archives