With World War I memorabilia, weapons from the D-Day assault on Utah beach and relics from the capture of Saddam Hussein, the first version of the Mountain Post Historical Center will celebrate a ribbon-cutting at Fort Carson on Friday.
At 3,600 square feet, it’s much smaller than the $6 million museum boosters hope to put outside the post’s main gate. But backers say it is a symbol of bigger things to come.
“It’s tangible evidence of that our effort is moving forward,” said retired Army Lt. Gen. Ed Soriano, who is leading the museum effort.
The Mountain Post Historical Association has kicked off its latest fundraising campaign to build a 12,800-square-foot glass walled museum. But the effort to preserve Fort Carson history is starting in a brick building near the planned site that will eventually become a warehouse for the larger facility. The smaller museum will open to the public in early July.
There’s a lot to see.
On display are artifacts gathered by Fort Carson’s 4th Infantry Division since World War I that explain how soldiers survived from the muddy trenches of France to Vietnamese jungles.
The displays are aimed to train new GIs at the post on the legacy they’re expected to uphold. The museum also shows Fort Carson’s peacetime role in national defense.
“Educating soldiers on history is a vital component to military success,” said Steve Ruhnke, the museum’s curator.
But while earlier Fort Carson history displays were behind well-guarded gates, the new museum is just off Colorado 115 at Nelson Boulevard, outside Fort Carson’s fence and open to the public.
Soriano said organizers plan a children’s area inside the museum in an effort to help school children envision the sacrifices made by earlier generations.
He said people in Colorado Springs who want to know more about their military neighbors, veterans and military retirees will also benefit from visiting the museum.
But the biggest beneficiary of the museum’s opening may be the effort to build a bigger museum.
Soriano thinks the small-scale taste of what a public military museum will bring to the region will whet the appetite of donors.
“We’ve got the buzz going and the interest going,” Soriano said. “Now we’ve got something to show them.”
The effort to build the museum for Fort Carson started in 2004. But fundraising efforts stalled during the economic downturn and budget problems led the military to cut money tabbed for the project. Backers of the museum remain $5.5 million short of their fundraising goal.
But dreams of the museum, and the tourism it could draw, haven’t ebbed. And Soriano said the museum group is confident that the cash will start coming its way.
Backers want the bigger museum with its glass walls overlooking Cheyenne Mountain to open in 2014.