The National Museum of the United States Army: Every Soldier Has a Story
By Bob Tagert
“We are excited that you are here and planning to visit this beautiful state-of-the-art national museum. Here, we proudly tell the comprehensive story of America’s oldest military service, the United States Army.
America’s Soldiers are among the finest of our citizenry and have been instrumental in the forming, fighting for, and protecting our nation. The Museum tells these stories through the very eyes and voices of our Soldiers.
From the historic “Fighting for the Nation Gallery” to the “Army & Society Gallery,” the artifacts, exhibits and programmatic elements will help you discover new stories and explore the ways our nation has benefited from the innovation and advancement of its Army.
In the Experimental Learning Center and Fort Discover we offer fun, educational venues for all visitors. They provide the opportunity to learn specific Soldier skills and then use those skills to respond to a humanitarian mission.
It is my sincere hope that you will leave the Museum richer in your understanding, knowledge and admiration of our American Soldiers and the many parts they have played in this nation’s role as a global leader.
We look forward to welcoming you at America’s Army Museum where “Every Soldier Has a Story.” – Tammy E. Call, Director of the National Museum of the United States Army.
Since we do the R&D for this column a month out and October is a very busy month, we decided that we wanted to do something that would honor our Veterans in the spirit of Veterans Day on the 11th and also keep us close to home. The DMV is ripe with places to visit to do just that. We ventured down Richmond Highway to the complex that is home to the National Museum of the Army. The complex sits on 84 acres across the highway from the Tulley Gate into Fort Belvoir. It isn’t a part of the base so don’t make that assumption like we did. Keep driving past that exit and follow the directions on your GPS app of choice and you will be good to go.
The museum is fairly new as it opened in 2020. It spans 185,000 square feet of indoor space that is loaded with exhibits, artifacts, film clips, and interactive experiences tracing the history of the Army from the beginning. Touring the museum helps us to remember why we have the best military in the world and, in light of current events, the importance in maintaining that readiness.
As you enter the main hall you will notice an array of freestanding pylons, each with an etched image of a Soldier’s face accompanied by biographical information. The pylons are aligned in a formation, stretching from Museum’s exterior into the building’s entryway, through the lobby, and to the Army Concourse. These personal accounts of ordinary men and women from historic periods offer Museum visitors a unique perspective of the Soldier’s experience. Every Soldier has a story, indeed.
There are 11 galleries including the Preserving the Nation Gallery (1861-1890) which explores the defining American event of the 19th century…The Civil War. The gallery also explores the Army’s role in westward expansion, including the Lewis and Clark Expedition into the western frontier, the war Indian Wars as well as the Mexican War.
In the Nation Overseas Gallery (1898-1918), you will learn about the Army’s first venture onto the world stage. Operations in China and the Spanish-American War are exhibited, as are the Army’s operations along the Mexican-American border which is still a fire-storm today. The exhibit also focuses on the Army’s role in World War I and the changing face of warfare. Here you will encounter an immersive exhibit which features the FT-17 Renault “Five of Hearts Tank.” The French-made tank, nicknamed the Five of Hearts, belonged to the 344th Tank Battalion in the Tank Brigade under Col George S. Patton, Jr. The Full track steel tank with a turret mounted 37-mm gun had a two-man crew and a road speed of 4.5 mph. There is also a virtual reality tank experience available in the Army Action Center. There is a $12 charge for it but Lani says it is worth every penny! It is a fascinating experience. The accounts of the soldiers as they went about the business of war give a griping detail of each moment.
The other Galleries include Founding the Nation (1607-1835), Global War (1919-1945) that encompasses WWII, the Cold War (1945-1991) encompassing Korea and Vietnam and the Changing World (1990-Present). For full accounts of each gallery log on to the website.
Don’t bypass the film in the Army Theater. It truly is an immersive introduction to the Army and to the museum. Be prepared to be impressed! Each Gallery also has a series of videos pertinent to the exhibit with an area to sit.
They do have an “Experiential” Learning Center that is interactive and good for all ages as well as rotating exhibits on the second floor.
The Museum has all that you will need for a nice visit. There is a Café – indoor and outdoor dining space – and a Museum store with all sorts of souvenirs. There are ample seating accommodations throughout the exhibits for rest and quiet contemplation as you view the exhibits and news reels.
Our Nation has gone through some troubling times lately…our democratic society is being assaulted, our status as a world leader has been tarnished yet we continue to lead the free world. The Museum of the United States Army helps to remind us who we are. Save fuel and take a short Road Trip to the Museum…bring a few friends too!
The Museum is open daily from 9 am – 5 pm. Admission is FREE but timed-entry tickets are needed. You can reserve them online. The Virtual Reality and Motion Theater experiences are not free and range from $10 – $30.
National Museum of the United States Army
1775 Liberty Drive
Fort Belvoir, VA
GPS coordinates – 38.7242806/-77.177874