The National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center at Patriot Park is pushing ahead with a March opening despite the fact that museum galleries will not be completed.
National Infantry Foundation Chairman, retired Maj. Gen. Jerry White said it was a difficult decision to delay the opening of the galleries until late spring or early summer.
“We could have opened the galleries on March 20, but I would not have been happy, and neither would anybody else,” White said.
The $100 million project paid for with a combination of public and private money has been under construction on South Lumpkin Road for more than two years.
On March 19, there will be a military graduation and dedication ceremony held at the parade field adjacent to the museum. The Soldier Center, which includes an IMAX theater, restaurant, gift shop, lobby, 2d Regiment gallery, classrooms and Ranger and Officer Candidate School Halls of Honor will open as scheduled.
The museum galleries will feature interactive displays. White used the Korean War gallery as an example of why the galleries’ opening was being pushed back.
“Sure, I could put a map of Korea on the wall, but 30 days later you will have this elaborate lighting device and you push a button and it will light up those battles,” White said.
He also said the some of the display cases, coming from Belgium, had not arrived.
“It is better to step back and make sure the quality is there,” White said. “The expectations are awfully high. This is not about money. This is based on the amount of work that has to be done.”
The March 19 dedication ceremony will feature direct descendants of some of America’s most famous Infantrymen at the dedication of the parade field.
The descendants, representing Theodore Roosevelt, Alexander Hamilton, Alvin York and others, will spread sacred soil gathered from battlefields around the world on the parade field. A company of graduating Infantry soldiers will be the first to walk across the very soil their forefathers fought for, according to a news release from the National Infantry Foundation.