“For over two centuries I have kept our country safe, purchasing freedom with my blood. To tyrants, I am the day of reckoning; to the oppressed, the hope for the future. Where the fighting is thick, there am I. I am the Infantry! Follow Me!”
This credo greets you as you enter the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center in Fort Benning, Georgia. Moving, indeed… welcome to the state-of-the-art facility that tells the story of the United States Army Infantrymen.
It is said that Infantrymen (those soldiers who fight on foot) own the last 100 yards of the battlefield, for throughout history, they have faced the enemy bayonet to bayonet. Appropriate, then, to begin your visit here by walking up the “Last 100 Yards” ramp, where in an emotional march back into time, you are reminded of all of the battles brave infantry soldiers, together with their brothers-in-arms, fought so that we Americans are able to enjoy freedom. Through the fields of the American Revolution… over the Burnside Bridge in Antietam… in battles during WWI, WWII, and in the Korean War… on a Huey in the jungles of Vietnam… in a Bradley tank that has been damaged by a roadside bomb in the the sands of Iraq. Powerful stuff!
We spent an entire day here, and even when they were closing the doors we hadn’t yet taken it all in. The museum houses an amazing display of artifacts from all eras of American’s military history. A Vietnam Memorial, Heritage Walk and Walk of Honor serve as memorials to Infantry units… a Rifle Range and Combat Simulators allow you to train just like soldiers do and embark on a virtual rescue mission in a Humvee … there’s the WW II Company Street; a replica of a 1940 Army post that features seven original buildings open for touring… the Fife and Drum cafe served up a great lunch… there’s even an IMAX Theatre where we took in a Tom Brokaw-narrated film, D-Day, that provided one of the most engaging history lessons we’ve ever had!
In addition to the various galleries depicting different aspects of, and times in, the history of the Infantry, the museum also shows the origin and development of Fort Benning. It shares the special relationship Fort Benning has with the local residents of Columbus, features a family gallery, and takes visitors – many of whom are the proud parents of soldiers who graduate nearly every week on the parade field just behind the museum – through the gallery that depicts what Initial Entry Training (IET), or Basic Training, is like – from a soldier’s first buzz cut to the time s/he graduates and considers more advanced training such as Ranger School.
The National Infantry Museum is a place like no other I’ve ever been. It remembers and honors the 239 years of service and sacrifice the United States Army Infantrymen have made for us. To them and to all military personnel, we are eternally and profoundly grateful. And to my father… thank you for your service when I was but a glimmer in your eye ~ U.S. Army, 1961-1963.