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Hall of Valor

Preview of new gallery opening at the Lewis Army Museum

The new exhibit in the Hall of Valor at the Lewis Army Museum. Photo credit: Marguerite Cleveland

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The Hall of Valor, a new gallery at the Lewis Army Museum on Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), opens Saturday, Sept. 15. The gallery is a series of five bays each representing two battles that units associated with Camp Lewis, Fort Lewis or JBLM (depending on the year) fought in.

"So much work has gone into these exhibits, it is wonderful to see them finally going on view to the public. We are hoping that our visitors enjoy them as much as we do," said Heidi Pierson, curator, Lewis Army Museum. Each battle exhibit is designed for a strategic, tactical and personal interaction. "There is a way for everyone to identify with the unit," she added.

The Hall of Valor was designed so units can come in for training and conduct a staff ride, which is a historical study of a battle to capture lessons learned. Soldiers can utilize the exhibits, which have interactive maps and artifacts to help visualize the battle. In addition, there are black monitors with interactive touch screens, which feature the stories of individual soldiers from the time period. "One of the first soldiers to die in France from Camp Lewis was a Nisqually and his story is featured," Pierson added.

The new gallery also features female soldiers for the first time in the museum. "Women have been an important part of Army life from the beginning. Their work has ranged from traditional ‘female' jobs, such as laundress, nurse or telephone operator, to full integration as combat-ready soldiers in the present Army. Our exhibits reflect this change over time and are intended to reflect how Army life has changed over the years," said Pierson.

Director Emeritus Alan Archambault, who is also a talented artist, assisted with the exhibits and provided his expertise in the review of each exhibit to ensure it was historically accurate. "Alan was key to the success of these exhibits. His expert knowledge and artistry were essential to laying out the exhibits and dioramas; he also chose all of the mannequin faces and expressions," Pierson explained.

One of the exhibits has a very personal touch to it for Erik W. Flint, director, Lewis Army Museum. "For the new Hall of Valor, we wanted to ensure that the mannequins we chose represented the ethnic diversity and gender integration of the modern U.S. Army, Flint said.  "The Asian female mannequin for our Desert Storm exhibit has a passing resemblance to my daughter Willow, so I thought I would put one of my obsolete BDU ‘FLINT' name tapes on the desert uniform for her. She's 14 and properly embarrassed by it."

The new gallery is sure to enthrall history buffs. Many of the battles presented are lesser known making it well worth the visit to learn something new. One of the most dramatic artifacts is a larger than life bronze head of the dictator Saddam Hussein.

Also new, the museum has updated its public access policy making the museum accessible to the pubic without a visitor's pass. Those without JBLM access can enter through the pedestrian gate at I-5 exit 119. Detailed instructions are on the museum website.

Hall of Valor Grand Opening, 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 15, Lewis Army Museum, 4320 Main St. and Constitution Dr., JBLM, free, 253.967.7206, lewisarmymuseum.com

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