National Guard December 2012 : Page 30

Transformative Decade The National Guard Memorial Museum’s new 9/11 Era Gallery tells the latest chapter of a remarkable story A Walk Through a Sandy Schaeffer 30 | Na tional Guard

A Walk Through A Transformative Decade

Ron Jensen

The National Guard Memorial Museum’s new 9/11 Era Gallery tells the latest chapter of a remarkable story


A resin “lifecast” soldier (opposite page) , complete with clothing and gear donated by National Guardsmen from New York and the District of Columbia, walks on patrol over actual steel from the World Trade Center in the opening room of the new 9/11 Era Gallery. Clothing and equipment (above) from the 19th and 20th Special Forces groups are part of the Operation Enduring Freedom exhibit. The names of every Guardsman killed during the war on terrorism grace the memorial wall (left), which also includes a slideshow of images provided by the families of approximately 200 of the fallen. Mementos from Guard soldiers who have served in the Kosovo peacekeepingmission are part of the Global Commitment exhibit.


The Sept. 11 exhibit features uniforms and mementos (above) donated by National Guard soldiers and airmen involved in the immediate response to terrorist attacks.A special display case (right) commemorates the effort to put the chief of the National Guard Bureau on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It includes a uniform donated by retired Gen. Craig R. McKinley, the first Guard officer to wear four stars and the first NGB chief to have a seat at the table.

ONE MAN PLACED his hands on his knees as he peered at a name engraved on a metal plate.

A woman set her feet and held her cell phone camera steady near a particular name before she snapped a photograph. And then she snapped another just to make sure.

Another visitor pointed to two names—touched them, actually—and said to a companion, “This kid, we lost him in Iraq.”

These were scenes moments after the ribbon was cut Nov. 17 on the 9/11 Era Gallery now open in the National Guard Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

And it became instantly clear that the panel of names—so many names—of Guardsmen who have died fighting the war on terrorism will be the new gallery’s centerpiece, its must-see exhibit among several that could otherwise wear that title.

“There,” a young woman said as she pointed at a name. “There he is.”

In remarks prior to the ribbon-cutting, Maj. Gen.

Steve Danner, the NGAUS and National Guard Educational Foundation (NGEF) chairman, said the 763 names are “where they should be—center stage in the new gallery.”

Danner, the Missouri adjutant general, had to pause for a moment when emotion got the best of him. The Missouri Guardsmen listed were his troops, and the gallery wall connected him to them once again just as it will do for so many others.

But the gallery does more than connect. It educates.Surrounding the memorial wall is evidence that the Guard that existed before 9/11 became something different on the day when a clear blue sky filled with dust and smoke, fear and uncertainty.

That change was multidirectional. And the museum operated by NGEF chronicles the broadening role through artifacts as diverse as a uniform damaged in combat to a beehive used to further Afghan agriculture to the protective gear of a civil support team member.

Cathleen Pearl, who was the deputy director of NGEF when the gallery’s evolution from an idea to reality began in earnest in 2010, says the effort started with determining the scope of the gallery and locating suitable artifacts.

“The vision was that people don’t know the Guard,” says Pearl, who is now president and chief executive officer of the National Defense University Foundation in Washington, D.C. “They might know one snippet of what the Guard does.”

She gathered artifacts that would speak to the Guard’s breadth of contributions, which required convincing donors to overcome their intrinsic humility by ensuring them that single items tell a larger tale.

Amelia Meyer, the NGEF archivist who completed the artifact collection after Pearl’s departure in January, agrees.

“I don’t think any person who donated anything to the museum was doing it for personal reasons,” she says.

The result is a punctuation mark—for now—on the Guard’s ever-expanding service, completing a story that starts several galleries earlier with depictions of the earliest colonial militias.

“It’s wonderful,” Lt. Col. Howard Schauer, the coordinator of the Guard agricultural business development teams, said of the gallery the night it opened. “It captures what we are and what we do.”

Visitors will now know that the Guard supports scientific missions to Antarctica, played a heroic role after Hurricane Katrina, protects the peace in Kosovo and more.

“I hope people leave with a better understanding of the variety and magnitude of the Guard’s numerous domestic and overseas missions,” Meyer says.

Perhaps, they will. What is certain is that they will leave thinking about that wall, the one with so many names.

It might become for the Guard what the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall has become a couple miles away on the National Mall, a place of pilgrimage, honor and remembrance.

That’s what Anne Armstrong, the NGEF deputy director, anticipates.

She says, “By being here and accessible, it provides family and friends an opportunity to reflect and contemplate the gravity of that sacrifice.”

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