The National Museum of the Marine Corps has been described as a “monument to the honor, courage and commitment of United States Marine’s since the day it opened on November 10, 2006. As the Museum marks its 10-year anniversary, it has proven to be a gift not just to Marines and Marine families but also to all veterans, the community and our future visitors. Nearly five million people have visited the Museum since the 2006 dedication, coming from the immediate community and hundreds of miles and oceans away. They have all left with a stronger understanding of the Marine Corps and the men and women who serve.
“The Museum has become part of the fabric of the community. It’s such a pleasure to see local families returning repeatedly and bringing new guests with them. Not a week goes by without hearing from someone close by or far away telling me how much the Museum means to them,” said Director Lin Ezell, who joined the staff before opening day. “So many visitors are surprised that this Museum is as much about American history as it is a tribute to the accomplishments of the Corps.”
The building’s spire rises toward Interstate 95, unquestionably capturing the attention of those driving by. For some, the design evokes the vision of the flag-raising on Iwo Jima’s Mount Suribachi, while others see a Marine at port arms and others see the jet stream from rising aircraft. It is an impressive building; but according to Lt.Gen. Robert R. Blackman, Jr. USMC (Ret), President and CEO of the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, though people are first captured by the visage of the dramatic building, they visit to understand the legacy and history of the Corps.
“For the past decade, the Museum has grown into an iconic destination for visitors from across the country, celebrating the history, traditions, and culture of the U.S. Marine Corps,” said Lt.Gen. Blackman. “Since the Museum opened, the Foundation has teamed with the Museum to provide support in the creation of programs, events, and resources that celebrate the history of our Corps and continue to close the gap between civilian and military communities by sharing the Marine Corps narrative, now and for years to come.”
Lt. Gen. Blackman, appointed president of the Foundation in 2011 following the retirement of Lt. Gen. G. Ronald Christmas USMC (Ret), has been a guiding force as the Foundation heads toward completion of the Museum’s Final Phase, which will make it possible for the Museum to add the stories of Marines’ proud service from 1976 through the present day in two new galleries.
For many, a visit to the Museum is a very emotional one. It isn’t uncommon for Marines to talk about their past experiences for the first time while visiting the Museum. Staff members and volunteers often hear how the visit has brought closure, healing and understanding for Marines and their families. In the last decade, Museum visitors have included veterans and their families from every war since World War II, civilians interested in the nation’s history as seen through the eyes of Marines, and notable visitors including President George W. Bush, Senators John Glenn, John Warner, Tim Kaine and Mark Warner; actors R. Lee Ermey, Kevin Bacon and Wilford Brimley.
The Museum also continues to be an educational resource for local school groups and teachers who wish to take their history lessons outside the classroom. Students visit the Museum in organized school groups each year, with approximately 342,000 children benefiting from educational programming in the last decade. The Foundation has employed a Teacher in Residence since 2007 who serves as a liaison between the Museum and schoolteachers across the region to better use the Museum as an educational tool. The education team also takes lessons from the Museum’s galleries to regional classrooms, reaching 13,000 students annually.
Along with its award-winning architecture, galleries and exhibits, the Marine Corps Heritage Center includes Semper Fidelis Memorial Park, adjacent to the Museum, which was dedicated in 2011. Providing a peaceful area of reflection, the Park has 40 different memorials and tens of thousands of commemorative bricks in honor or memory of Marines. Today, the Park includes Semper Fidelis Memorial Chapel, three overlooks and installations of noted sculptures including Iron Mike, Molly Marine and Sgt. Reckless, the beloved Korean War horse.
Currently, the Museum tells the Marine Corps story through the end of the Vietnam War, but work is well underway to ensure that the rest of the story is told. At the completion of its Final Phase, the Museum will double in size and will feature two new galleries to include exhibits dedicated to Marine service in Beirut, Panama, Grenada, Desert Shield/Desert Storm, Somalia and the 13 years of continuous combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Final Phase will also include a giant screen theater featuring a signature modern day Marine film, a combat art gallery, a Hall of Valor, a children’s gallery and expanded education suite, a sports gallery and a changing exhibits gallery.
“These new historical galleries will be the most difficult thing we have done. The memories will be fresh, the stories poignant,” Ezell said. “The sense of loss will still be fresh. Honoring our current warriors will be the most important thing we will do. And we will never be done,” noted Ezell, as the Museum concludes its first decade.
About the National Museum of the Marine Corps
The Museum is a public-private partnership between the U.S. Marine Corps and the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation. It is located at 18900 Jefferson Davis Highway in Triangle, VA. and is open 9:00 am to 5:00 pm daily except Christmas Day. Admission and parking are free. For more information, call 703-784-6107 or visit on the web at www.usmcmuseum.com.
About the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation
Dedicated to the preservation and promulgation of Marine Corps history, the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation was established in 1979 as a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. The Foundation supports the historical programs of the Marine Corps in ways not possible through government funds. The Foundation provides grants and scholarships for research and the renovation, restoration and commissioning of historical Marine Corps artifacts and landmarks. Securing the necessary funding for the complete construction of the National Museum of the Marine Corps and Marine Corps Heritage Center, located in Triangle, Virginia, is the Foundation’s current primary mission while continuing to provide program support for the Corps’ historical, museum and educational activities. For more information, visit MarineHeritage.org.