VETS ARE TREASURED LIVING HISTORY
The National WWII Museum has volunteers who served in that war
Take a tour of The National WWII Museum in New Orleans. Covering every aspect of the war that changed the world, the museum presents the opportunity for Americans to not only learn about the war, but to understand the real price of freedom.
THE BACKBONE OF THE NATIONAL WWII MUSEUM, LOCATED ON SIX ACRES IN DOWNTOWN NEW ORLEANS, IS IT S CORPS OF VOLUNTEERS,
who daily provide visitors from around the world with a unique experience. More than 400 volunteers—14 of whom are World War II veterans—devote thousands of hours each year to welcome and assist museum guests. After being dedicated in 2000 as The National D-Day Museum, it was designated by Congress in 2004 as “America’s National WWII Museum.” Its mission is to “tell the story of the American experience in the war that changed the world— why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today—so that all generations will understand the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn.” And the 14 WWII veterans offer visitors the experience of hearing firsthand accounts of the war. These volunteers are “treasured living history,” captivating audiences with stories not found in books—at a museum “celebrating the American spirit, teamwork, optimism, courage and sacrifices of the men and w omen who fought on the battlefront and served on the home front.” WWII veterans Forrest Villarrubia and Ben Martinez are stationed at the front entrance a few days a week and greet visitors—who are of all ages—as they walk through the doors. Villarrubia, a retired combat Marine, served in the Pacific Islands. Martinez, a retired combat Army medic, served in the Italian Campaign. Both spend their volunteer days sharing stories, showing old photographs of their service and proudly displaying the medals they earned during the war. “There’s not many of us left,” notes Villarrubia. “I just love being here and talking to the museum’s visitors. Most of the time, they ask me where I was during the war and what I did. They seem to enjoy hearing my stories and I really look forward to coming to the museum.” Elaborating on the museum’s mission is Sanibel Island resident and former U.S. Rep. James A. Courter (R-NJ), who served as the museum’s board chairman from 2016 to 2018: “I was on the Armed Services Committee during my entire 12 years in the United States Congress, resulting in my deep appreciation for the service and sacrifices made by our men
What began in a rented warehouse in the industrial zone of New Orleans 20 years ago is now a $300 million campus that spreads over more than two city blocks.
and women in uniform over many bloody conflicts. When asked to join the Board of Trustees of The National WWII Museum in its early stages of development, I was honored to do so.”
What began in a rented warehouse in the industrial zone of New Orleans 20 years ago is now a $300 million campus that spreads over more than two city blocks. The museum is recognized as the “most accessible and trusted source of knowledge on America’s involvement in World War II,” Courter points out.
World War II was perhaps the greatest conflict in all of human history, a war involving 60 countries for six years, which took the lives of more than 56 million people. Yet there was a moral clarity to America’s efforts during the entire conflict.
“It was a time when America’s power seemed so unimpeachably right and just, when morality and power were perfectly aligned. The museum has the responsibility to tell that story, America’s contribution to freedom and democracy that was under existential assault, why America fought in World War II, how we won, and what that means today,” Courter explains.
Ranked by 2017 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards as the No. 2 museum in the world and No. 2 in the nation, it is one of the premier tourist destinations of all. Welcoming more than 6.6 million visitors since opening its doors, the museum presently spans five pavilions featuring several permanent exhibitions.
Clockwise from top: US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center; Ralph E. Crump, LTJG, USNR US Merchant Marine Gallery; The Duchossois Family Roadto Berlin:EuropeanTheaterGalleries
WWII veterans Ben Martinez and Forrest Villarrubia greet visitors at the museum entrance. Below: The Louisiana Memorial Pavilion.
From top: US Freedom Pavilion: The Boeing Center; Campaigns of Courage: European and Pacific Theaters