We recently drove to Georgia to see our youngest son Griffin. It was what they called Family Weekend at Fort Benning. What that meant for him was the end of Basic Training. Since he is what is considered OSUT (One Station Unit Training), meaning he is doing his Basic Training and AIT (Advanced Individual Training) at the same place with the same Company and the same Drill Sergeants. The soldiers are given a day pass for the Saturday and Sunday after Basic to spend time with friends and family off base before they start AIT. We all agreed we wanted to go to the National Infantry Museum while we were there. His graduation ceremony will take place there, but there is not a lot of time to spend with the soldier between the ceremony and them loading a bus to be shipped to their duty station and we wanted to make sure we had time to explore.
As you can see, it’s a beautiful building. I wasn’t able to get a picture without people in front but you get the point. (If you go to their website you can see a better picture of the front of the museum.) In the front rotunda there is a huge statue of an infantryman to welcome visitors.
Once we entered the museum and got through the lobby, we were just outside the Last 100 Yards Ramp. This is an emotional display that, frankly, had me crying before we even entered. It starts with this pillar:
At this point you can’t see the rest of the display but the music and sounds filtering out of the display area are what got me. I can’t even describe the emotions that went through me just hearing the display. Once we entered the display area, I was in awe. There are life-sized dioramas of famous battles from the American Revolution to modern times. I found out later that the figures used in these displays are actually cast sculptures of active duty soldiers that volunteered to represent past soldiers.
After going through this emotional walk through time, we ended up in a display area that shows different aspects of the training soldiers go through during Basic Training and progresses to the more specific training Infantry soldiers get during AIT. There was also an area representing Rangers and Airborne.
Downstairs there are several galleries separated into what can be best described as eras. Along with more dioramas, these areas hold artifact as any traditional museum would. There are canteens from World War I and a big slab of the Berlin Wall. There are numerous knives, guns, sabers, and swords from different wars and different regions of the world. Samples of uniforms through the ages and, again, from around the world.
In middle of the wide lobby of the downstairs area is the Hall of Valor. It’s a glass-walled room that is filled with the names and faces of all of the infantrymen that have been awarded the Medal of Honor.
When Fort Benning updated the barracks and supporting structures in the 1990s the museum was able to preserve some of the buildings that were built in the 1940s. They moved them to just outside the museum and created a street straight out of World War II.
There is so much more at the museum that we didn’t have time to experience the day we were there. I’m hoping to have at least a little bit of time to explore a bit more when we are there in a couple of weeks.
If you are ever in the Columbus, Georgia area I strongly suggest you make this a stop in your travels. Admission is free (they suggest a donation if you are able) so you can’t beat that!
**All pictures were taken by me. I was more concerned about taking in my surroundings and spending time with my soldier so I apologize for the poor quality. One of these days I’ll learn how to use my camera correctly instead of resorting to using my phone all the time.