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Honoring army women.

THE only museum in the world dedicated to U.S. Army women sits among trees and shrubs just inside the main gate of Fort Lee, Va.

The 13,000-square-foot museum building houses artifacts and exhibits depicting the history of women in the Army from the Revolutionary War to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"The current Army Women's Museum traces its heritage to the Women's Army Corps Museum at Fort McClellan, Ala.," said museum director Judy M. Matteson. The first museum began in one room of the WAC Training Center in 1955.

In 1969 The WAC Foundation, a private, non-profit organization, was set up to raise funds to support construction of the WAC Museum. For $5 anyone could buy a brick, autograph it and return it to be part of the museum.

By 1976 the foundation had raised more than $400,000 from the sale of bricks and through other donations. An architect from Anniston, Ala., designed the museum, Matteson said.

With the 1999 closure of Fort McClellan a new home had to be found for the historical objects and displays at the museum. "One of the reasons Fort Lee was chosen as the site for the new museum was that it was the home of the WAC Training Center and WAC School from 1948 to 1954," Matteson said.

At a recent reunion many Army women, both current and former Soldiers, reminisced and celebrated their shared legacy.

"This museum preserves our history and showcases the achievements of women in the Army. Young people thank us for the opportunities they are receiving today, because of the brave Soldiers who went before them," said Yzetta L. Nelson, the first Army woman to be promoted to the rank of command sergeant major. She hopes that more soldiers will find out about the museum and support the foundation with time, artifacts and membership.

The foundation, currently known as the U.S. Army Women's Museum Foundation, continues to fund and operate the museum from annual donations received from its members.

An "In Memory of" display honors female Soldiers who died in operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.

A display of various uniforms worn by female Soldiers over the years helps illustrate the Army values.

CSM Yzetta L. Nelson (Ret.) stands next to a display of when she became the first female command sergeant major in the Army.

One of 1SG Marion C. Crawford's achievements is depicted on the quilt at the Army Women's Museum.

1SG Marion C. Crawford (Ret.) looks at a quilt illustrating accomplishments of women in the Army. Crawford, who served two tours in Vietnam with the WAC Detachment of U.S. Army, Vietnam, is one of the people depicted on the quilt. She said that her unit had no weapons for self defense in the middle of a combat zone, "only the speed of our feet and the bunkers kept us safe."

One wall of the museum is dedicated to the women who made the ultimate sacrifice.
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Title Annotation:military museums for army women
Author:Joseph, Antony
Publication:Soldiers Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2005
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