The first thing you notice is the marching. You don't actually see any Soldiers, but the sound of their footsteps is everywhere. The cadence is perfect, no one falters or gets out of step--and it goes on and on without end. So begins the journey at the National Infantry Museum, as you start up a ramp that leads through the horrific and inspiring battles of American footsoldiers, beginning with the American Revolution and progressing through time to the recent Desert Wars.
I should say here that we (my husband, my older son, and I) were the guests of my Soldier-in-Training, Seth, who was enjoying a much-deserved 36-hour pass before entering the infantry-specific portion of his time at Ft. Benning, GA. We were greeted by a smiling Veteran, a volunteer I suppose, whose job it is to greet patrons and direct them on their trek through American military history. He recognized Seth as an SIT who had already paid the NIM a visit along with his Company. So he asked him, "You've been here before, haven't you?"
"Yes Sir, I have," came the reply. Who said that?
"When do you graduate?"
"May 25th, Sir."
"Are you prepared to assume your post?"
"Yes Sir, I am."
This could not possibly be my child conversing with an adult without guesswork, shrugs, or vague UMMMM's or UHH's. The volunteer turned us family members over to this young man that I've been calling "my kid," and we went in. He proved to be an able guide, pointing specific exhibits out to us, while taking second looks at things he remembered from his first visit.
I would say the NIM is a must-see, those of you who live in the South, and those who might be passing through. I won't give away the interactive and audio-visual surprises, but I will say that the World War I gallery absolutely floored me. But I will also say that this is not a particularly easy walk to take. If your idea of a military museum includes congratulations for victory and flag-waving, be forewarned. There are flags in this museum, sure enough, but they have holes torn in them. I admit that I did not walk through every gallery. I am saving the Viet Nam gallery for another visit. While my sons walked through that one, I waited upstairs with my husband. Impressed as I was, I asked him the question that I'll wager is on the tip of every visitor's tongue:
"When will it end? When will we ever evolve to the point where we don't consider blowing each other up every time we disagree?"
"Never," came his flat reply. He then reminded me how power corrupts, and "absolute power corrupts absolutely," as we have all heard. In fact, one of the last galleries you'll walk through at the NIM is the one that displays the sole superpower in its fragile pride--that would be us. Corrupt? I pray we are not, for I understand that the Infantry are the guardians of peace.
I don't believe in peace the way I used to, back in the days when I thought I could offer my enemy a peace sign and an olive branch and he would stand down. That was before I knew that my enemy would shoot me where I stand. That was before I knew that some one had to have my back if there is to be peace and safety and the quality of life we long for. Do I believe in peace? Absolutely. It's the best thing we can ever strive for and pray for. The difference for me is that I have come to believe in sacrifice and to be grateful for it.
Go to the National Infantry Museum.