National Infantry Museum, Columbus, GA Summer 2013

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.

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The Infantryman sculpture

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.

Infantry Museum Paratrooper
The Last 100 Yards Ramp

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.

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The Cold War Exhibit

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.

Infantry Museum Medal of Honor Hall
The Hall of Valor

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.

Infantry Museum Ranger Room
Ranger Exhibit

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.

 

Mount Rushmore, South Dakota, 1971

When I was eleven years old I went on a 50-mile hike in the Black Hills of South Dakota with my boy scout troop.  In addition to a week of hiking and camping we took a drive through Customer State Park, where we saw  bison and antelope, we took a swim in the pool at Hot Springs, we visited Badlands National Park, and we stopped at Wall Drug, famous for offering free ice water to visitors (we saw a Wall Drug sign in Amsterdam, Holland), and we made a trip to Mount Rushmore.  Forty-six years later I still think of the trip as a great experience.

It’s also when I received my first camera.  My parents bought a Kodak Instamatic camera for me similar to this one.  I had a couple 126 film cartridges.  Not really knowing what we were buying, one of the rolls was slide film.  Most of the photos were not very good.  This photo was scanned from the original slide.  After forty-six years it took a lot of work to clean up the scratches and dust, but it’s not a bad photo.  Let’s just say it’s my first successful attempt to document my travels.

Mount Rushmore Ektachrome 100

Seneca Falls, New York

In August 2015 we visited Seneca Falls.  Seneca Falls is a beautiful little town in the Finger Lakes region of New York famous for its ties to the women’s rights movement.  Seneca Falls may also have been the inspiration behind Bedford Falls, the fictional town from Frank Kapra’s classic movie It’s A Wonderful Life.

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The town is built along a canal linking Seneca Lake and Cayuga Lake.  By 1828 the canal had been linked to the Erie Canal and industry began to move to the area.  The town was established in 1829 along the canal and was incorporated as the Village of Seneca Falls in 1831.

In 1848 the first Convention on Women’s Rights was held at the Wesleyan Chapel.  Among the organizers of the convention was Elizabeth Cady Stanton, one of the most famous figures of the women’s rights movement.  Today the Wesleyan Chapel is part of the Women’s Rights National Historic Park Visitor Center.

Seneca Falls Wesleyan Chapel Ektachrome 100 Outdoor 2

Tourism has become a large part of Seneca Falls.  In addition to the Wesleyan Chapel, you can visit Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s house, called “the Center of the Rebellion” by Stanton.  Stanton and her family lived in the house, now managed by the National Park Service, from 1847 until 1862, when the family moved to New York.

Seneca Falls EC Stanton House Ektachrome 100 HDR Deep 1

Stanton’s presence is all over Seneca Falls.  A few blocks from the Stanton House is a statue commemorating the first meeting between Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.  The two were introduced by Amelia Bloomer after an antislavery lecture.  The beautiful sculpture is by Ted Aub.

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Stanton is also among the women depicted in the First Wave sculpture in the Visitor Center.  The sculpture features the women who organized the first Convention on Women’s Rights as well as a few of the men who supported the movement.  Elizabeth Cady Stanton is on the far left.

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Finally, the Trinity Episcopal Church, along the canal, is one of the most photographed churches in the world.

Seneca Falls Trinity Episcopal Church Ektachrome 64 Pro HDR Outdoor 1