I was an Army brat. We moved a lot but we always seemed to go back to Columbus, Georgia, home to Fort Benning. Oakland Park, Baker Village, Benning Hills- those were the neighborhoods we lived in while my dad was stationed at Fort Benning, while he was in Vietnam and after he retired. I consider Columbus my home town.
That being said, my trips back to Columbus have been few and far between. Life gets in the way. My wife and I did take a trip to Columbus in 2013 to attend an impromptu reunion of the Baker High School Class of 1978. I really enjoyed seeing my classmates and I was amazed at how Columbus had changed over the years since I was last there.
There are a lot of really nice things to do in Columbus and one of them is the National Infantry Museum. Opened in 2009, the museum has one several awards, including USA Today’s 2016 Readers’ Choice Award for Best Free Museum. We visited the museum as part of a memorial luncheon for classmates who are no longer with us.
The first thing that struck me was the Infantryman, or Follow Me, statue at the entrance to the museum. The statue was originally located at the U.S. Army Infantry School at Fort Benning before being moved to the Infantry Museum. What was interesting to me is that the sculpture was created by two U.S. soldiers, Private First Class Manfred Bass and Private First Class Karl H. Van Krog. It’s a beautiful monument to the Infantrymen of our country.
The museum campus has a 2,100 seat stadium where Army trainee graduations are held twice a week. We visited on a graduation day and there were a couple hundred very proud graduates and their family members at the museum that day.
The exhibits inside the museum honor the men who fought in the many wars and conflicts the United States have participated in over the years and can only be described as incredible. The entrance to the exhibits is called the Last 100 Yards Ramp. As you walk up the ramp you pass Infantrymen fighting battles from the Revolutionary War through the Afghanistan War.
My favorite exhibit halls were the World At War 1929-1947 and the Cold War 1947-1989. Life size displays are combined with projected images to create amazing interactive dioramas. Here, a Korean War soldier sits and writes a letter to home.
A special exhibit, the Hall of Valor, pays tribute to the nearly 1,500 American Infantrymen who were awarded the nation’s highest award for bravery, the Medal of Honor. It’s a beautiful exhibit.
Some of the weaponry on display is quite scary. There’s one weapon, kind of a rocket launcher, designed to launch a shell armed with a nuclear warhead up to five miles. Fortunately, it was never used.
There are exhibits focusing on the Rangers, Cavalry, and Armor, all important parts of the Infantry. There’s even an exhibit hall celebrating the connections between Fort Benning and Columbus.
There’s a lot more to Columbus. There’s the Chattahoochee RiverWalk, the Coca Cola Space Science Center and Planetarium and a whitewater kayaking course on the Chattahoochee River. The Infantry Museum, though, brought back a lot of memories from a childhood lived around Columbus and the Army. Our day at the museum was a day well spent.