'Jazzed about what's ahead' for National Museum of the Marine Corps
By DAWNTHEA PRICE | The Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg, Va. | Published: March 28, 2015
Steady rain didn't keep dozens of Marines, their families and civilian supporters from celebrating the expansion of the National Museum of the Marine Corps.
Friday's groundbreaking started inside, with speeches, and then moved outdoors. The crowd watched as Winchester resident James Collins--a veteran of operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm--used a gold excavator bucket to scoop earth from the hillside near the museum's existing Leatherneck Gallery.
The groundbreaking marks the latest effort to "do the work necessary to honor all Marines from 1975 through the present day," said Lt. Gen. Robert Blackman, president of the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation.
The foundation announced the expansion--which is scheduled to be completed in 2020--in September. It will include two new galleries and several additions to both new and existing portions of the museum campus.
Upon completion of the galleries, which is slated for 2017, the museum will be able to display artifacts chronicling Marine Corps history through present-day conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Permanent galleries currently start with the branch's creation in 1776 and end with the Vietnam War, in 1975.
The museum, located off U.S. 1 in Triangle, has received more than 4.12 million visitors since opening in November 2006.
"We didn't expect that many, we didn't staff for that many, we didn't plan a parking lot for that many," said Museum Director Lin Ezell, "but they have come."
Gen. Walter Boomer, chairman of the foundation, said in his remarks that the expansion has been under consideration for some time.
"As we have taken these tremendous steps forward for the museum campaign," Boomer said, "the foundation has remained committed to our larger mission of preserving and promulgating the history, the traditions and the culture of our Corps."
As the private organization behind the museum, the MCHF raised more than $54 million for the installation's final phase. The group's founders, Timothy and Sandy Day, contributed $10 million. The Timothy T. Day Overlook was dedicated on Friday in an area of the museum campus near the chapel.
The two additional galleries are projected for completion in January 2017. The new galleries won't just focus on Marines in combat, but will include other aspects of service such as disaster relief.
Ezell said museum staff "cast a wide net" to locate artifacts for those galleries in order to include the many narratives of the Corps.
"We're jazzed about what's ahead," she said in her remarks.
When the phase is completed in 2020, the museum site will also have additional amenities such as a large-screen movie theater, expanded education suite, the Marine Sports Hall of Fame and a combat art gallery.
Boomer said Marines who served in or before Vietnam "had the privilege" of seeing their contributions to Corps and country memorialized in the museum, and that it is time to extend that honor to Marines who have since joined.
"Today's generations of Marines come to the museum and do not have a gallery to walk through to show their family and friends," he said. "There is no record of the men and women they served with or what they accomplished together.
"So we have a clearly defined mission: Complete this museum. We will accomplish that mission, and we officially begin today."
(c)2015 The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, Va.)
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