The National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center

Article excerpt

The story of American infantrymen begins in 1607, when the Jamestown settlers sought to protect themselves from the forays of native tribes, then thought to be Indians. The story continues from then to now, as the Infantry has fulfilled its critical role in every war fought in or by our nation. The Infantry story can never be told completely, but the new National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center at Patriot Park at the entrance to Fort Benning, Ga., is a magnificent effort that highlights, calls to memory and excites interest in the exploits, impact and successes of infantry forces throughout American history.

The museum was founded 402 years after 1607 and 234 years after the Continental Congress authorized the activation of 10 infantry companies, which heralded the birth of what is now the U.S. Army on June 14, 1775. It is a $100 million world-class facility, almost worth the wait. It is disappointing only in being too late for millions of those who are honored by its existence. They cannot walk among the realistic scenes of the past, touch the hardware they employed, or recall and recount the stories behind the displays, but we can believe that they are aware, approving and satisfied that today's generation is grateful for the legacy they helped create.

The main museum divides history into six "Era Galleries": Securing Our Freedoms (1607-1815), Manifest Destiny and the Civil War (1815-1898), Entering the International Stage (18981920), A World Power (1920-1947), The Cold War (1947-1989) and The Sole Superpower (1989-Present). There are a Hall of Valor for Medal of Honor recipients and Halls of Honor for the Rangers and Officer Candidate School graduates. In the "Last 100 Yards" exhibit, first to the rat-a-tat drummer's call, visitors proceed along an incline through "living museum" experiences. Tour guides lead one from Yorktown to the Civil War, Indian Wars, World War I and World War II scenes, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and Operation Desert Storm. You pass through historical events with sights, sounds even smells - of infantry combat. You will suffer in a World War 1 trench, parachute onto Corregidor in the Philippines and air-assault into Landing Zone X-ray in Vietnam. …