Monday, October 6, 2008

Airborne & Special Ops Museum

After dropping Col. Donlon off just down the street from our interview on Saturday, I returned to the Moore Exposure office to pack up the equipment. With everything packed and order restored to Jean's office, I shook her hand and thanked her again for being such a kind hostess. She was absolutely amazing and accomodating. In my packed little red car, I was on the road back to Raleigh. But as I drove off, I remembered how close I was to the Airborn & Special Operations Museum and felt it would be ashame to return to Raleigh without visiting it.

And I am so glad that I detoured to visit the museum. It was well worth the time! The musuem walks you through history, and the development of the Special Forces. It was incredibly appropriate, and really helped me by visually confirming so much of my research. I'm the type of person who needs all three types of learning to make the information really stick. By reading, hearing and doing I can lock that information in and later share it with others. Being in the business of learning all of this history to share it with others, I feel the pressure of memorizing as much as possible so that I can state it with confidence (knowing it as fact) when asked. So walking through the history was pretty exciting!

Research, as I have previously stated, is part of the joy that I find in this process. It probably comes from my family, for which I am incredibly thankful. So much of my research has been focused on the Montagnard culture (with special thanks to Dr. Hickey's anthropological published work), the Vietnam War, and the history of the Special Forces. Before meeting Surry, I knew so little about the Special Forces. And now, I find myself obsessed with learning more about them so that I can speak intelligibly with others about the Special Forces. I find myself cursing the short amount of time to cover such details, too. I would love to spend all day swimming in this information. There is still so much to learn, but the museum definitely helped me solidify what I have been absorbing.

As I walked through the museum, I was taken back to the summer of my 18th birthday. It's one that will stick with me as a favorite for the rest of my life, as I was lucky enough to join my father in Bermuda and then again in France. Oh, what a summer! I look back on it with great joy, as I was so care free at the time. While in France, we traveled up the coast of Normandy and visited many important historical sites. And while at the museum yesterday, I felt like I was revisiting them all over again. How divine that I should already be introduced (much less have visited) the historical locations that were now in front of me?

I remember meeting a soldier who was unloaded on the beaches on D-Day. He was there standing in front of me, revisiting the land that once was a mission. He shared those moments before they landed and they started unloading on the beach; he said he was terrified. He talked about how he started smoking that day because there wasn't much else to do for nerves in those moments, and everyone around him was smoking anyway. They were passing out cigarettes to everyone. I wonder if I wrote down that man's name; I should look through my journals again. He has always stuck with me.

For years my sister and I groaned at the thought of looking at another bronze statue, or visiting another empty field simply because they were historical landmarks. As kids, we felt we were dragged from landmark to landmark, and forced to listen to lectures from our parents about how important each place was in history. And now, as an adult, how my opinion has changed! I recognize the importance now, and would give up so much to revisit those trips as a family. What cherished memories they are, and how saddened I am that I cannot remember each detail with clarity. This, I think, is one of the reasons I journal so much. One cannot remember those details forever.

Anyway, for anyone interested in military history, this museum is dynamite. It could take you a while to walk through the entire museum if you stop to read everything, but as I was close to starving by the time I got there I only spent about an hour enjoying the entire museum (from start to shop). The building is modern and bright when you walk in, and the displays are well designed and organized. And, did I mention, the entire thing is FREE? In today's economy, that's pretty amazing to me. It's only an hour from Raleigh, so head down there if you have a free Saturday.

By the time I left the museum, I was blissfully exhausted and hungry. I attempted to see some more historical sites, but instead headed back to Raleigh in order to see Moving Midway in Durham at 7:15 that night. Having been to Midway a few times with friends, and knowing some of the family members, it was interesting to see them on the big screen. But more on the screening later.

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