Uncommon Valor

Sunday, April 01, 2012 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Day 18 (part 2):  Quantico, VA 
The Marines may be looking for a few good men, but there's no need for them to seek a good museum. They already have a great one.   Today we visited the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico with cousins Pam and Joe, who live in Manassas. As we head into a couple of weeks of intense museum hopping, the Marines have set the bar high, as befits their tradition.
In both depth and breadth, the museum thoroughly interprets the history of this hybrid branch of our military forces.  Opened in 2006, the facility sits on a 135-acre site adjacent to the Quantico Marine Base.  The exterior shape of the 120,000 sq. ft. structure (pictured above) was designed to evoke the memory of the most famous Marine symbol, the raising of the U.S. flag by Marines on Iwo Jima in World War II.
Assault from the Sky (Korean War era)
Numerous vignettes depict significant events in the combat history of the Marine Corps— street fighting in Vietnam, landing at Tarawa in World War II, a helicopter assault in Korea, and many more.  Life-size figures are featured in realistic action poses in these scenes, and the attention to detail is remarkable, from the sand on a soldier's shoe to a scratch on his arm.  A beach landing scene even has boot prints in the sand made to look as if they filled with water.
Participatory exhibits, such as being part of a group briefing for the initial attack on Iwo Jima, quicken the pulse and allow visitors to experience a sample of the intensity that Marines consider routine.  First person video and written accounts of battle experiences bring these horrific events to life.  Audio and video combat footage is also used effectively to stir an emotional investment in the bold triumphs of these courageous men and women. 
The museum is organized by combat period, and each era is given its just due.  This works especially well for those with limited time who may want to concentrate their visit on the span when they or a loved one served in the Corps.  Since my father worked in airfield construction on the Pacific island of Guadalcanal, I found the World War II section compelling, especially the exhibits about Marine action on this island.
We spent three hours walking through exhibits from the revolutionary years through today and didn't nearly exhaust all that this excellent facility has to offer.  Since it opened, the National Museum of the Marine Corps has become a popular destination for visitors to the Washington area.  Winding pathways on the museum property, including those around the memorial chapel on the hill overlooking the main building, are lined with commemorative bricks honoring the sacrifices individual Marines have made.  If you can't get there in person, the museum invites you to take a virtual tour, including panorama images of all the galleries.
After we visited Pam and Joe's home to check out the results of their impressive weekend warrior home improvement project, we shared a delicious meal at the Manassas headquarters of Tony's Pizza before Pam took us to a must-see letterbox at the local Confederate cemetery, capping off a wonderful day with some favorite cousins.   
"Retreat?  Hell, we just got here!" 
Marine captain's reply when advised by a French officer to withdraw to better defensive position in World War I

Pam and Joe, our congenial tour guides

Memorial Chapel shape echoes that of the museum.