What better way to celebrate freedom, independence, honor our troops, veterans, and learn about our nation's military history (and celebrate my birthday on July 2nd) than visiting the National Museum of the Marine Corps in across the street from Quantico Marines Corps Base in Prince William County, Virginia?
36 miles south of Washington, D.C., the architecture of this impressive museum rises above travelers on Interstate 95. Modeled on Joe Rosenthal's famous photograph of the Marines raising the flag on top of Mount Suribachi during the World War II's Battle of Iwo Jima, the museum houses exhibits detailing the Marines involvement in conflicts from World War II through the present Global War on Terrorism.
Upon entering the parking lot, visitors are awestruck by the size and beauty of this museum (just opened in November 2006). No fee to park, and even better, no admission charge to the Marine Corps Museum. The entrance into a glass and steel enclosed rotunda treats guests to the Leatherneck Gallery ("leatherneck" being a nickname for Marines) where several Marine planes hang overhead, including a Harrier jet. Other displays include a Korean War helicopter battle scene. The walls are adorned with famous quotations regarding the U.S. Marines Corps.
The first exhibit that we visited was called "Making Marines" which simulates to some degree the Marines boot camp experience on Parris Island. While I've never been in the military, this display gave me some interesting flashbacks from my several viewings of the movie Full Metal Jacket. You have the opportunity to listen to a Drill Sergeant bark degrading orders at you, try on a Marines Corp supply backpack, do some pullups and even pay a few bucks to shoot on an M-16 simulated rifle range.
The rest of the museum is organized according to conflict: World War II, The Korean War, The War in Vietnam, and the Global War on Terrorism. Each exhibit details the Marines' involvement, the major battles, shows the weapons and ammunition, provides information on efforts on the homefront, and displays some of the tanks, artillery, and air support from each conflict.
Of particular note is that the museum owns and displays both original flags that were raised in Iwo Jima. While exploring the galleries, you feel as if you are in the midst of some of the battles and can really appreciate the hardships and the sacrifices that our young men and women make by serving in the Corps.
On the second level of the museum, there are two dining options. The Mess Hall serving cafeteria style food and Tun Tavern, where we ate lunch. Tun Tavern replicates the historic tavern in Philadelphia where the Marine Corps was born. They had a nice assortment of pub food and some good beers on tap at an affordable price.
After exploring the museum, we strolled through the adjacent park with some memorials dedicated to Marines from the various wars.
I'd highly recommend a visit to the National Museum of the Marine Corps. It gives you a new appreciation for our troops and you'll be sure to learn something new.
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