By Iain McLellan
There is a museum celebrating military family history in Albuquerque New Mexico. It was founded by Army wife and mother and overseas “brat” Dr. Circe Olson Woessner and her father, DODDS administrator, Dr. Allen Dale Olson.
When asked about how the museum came about, Woessner recalls,
“One night I was watching TV while my son was deployed to Iraq and I thought about all the military families around the world who at that very moment had children or parents serving in harm’s way. All military families, from all generations, who have ever had a loved one deploy, have felt that curious blend of pride, of worry, of hope—and have had to draw on an inner strength to keep it all together outwardly, despite inner turmoil. That is something universal to military families throughout history.”
Upon this realization, Woessner put in some online queries about military families and came to the conclusion that she needed to create a museum entirely dedicated to the American Military Family.
“What we want to do in Albuquerque is to have a permanent, physical place where children, spouses, parents, siblings, cousins, grandparents, partners of service members– from all generations, all branches–can visit and experience a museum entirely dedicated to their stories and their history.”
To Woessner, it is important for people to recognize these elements of service and appreciate the unique military family cultures and subcultures.
“We want to create a learning community where people can come and see history through a different filter, relive their own military roots, open dialogue between the generations and leave with a deeper appreciation of what it means to serve as a military family and to be a child moving from school to school, country to country as a ‘military brat.’”
Woessner believes that the lifestyles of the current generation of brats are very different from the ones she and older generations of brats knew.
“Although most of my brat peers are in their late 40s to late 60s and our experiences as brats are vastly different from the experiences of military kids today, we still have much in common –this is apparent when we meet—even as strangers—because we can instantly relate. It’s like that old saying: the more things change, the more things stay the same.”
In collaboration with the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History, a Smithsonian affiliate, the Museum of the American Military Family created the exhibit, Sacrifice & Service: The American Military Family. On its opening day, 300 visitors viewed the exhibit. In the months of June and July, approximately 15,000 visited the museum. After the exhibit closes at the end of August, the exhibit will travel to the Lea County Museum in Lovington, and to Los Alamos.
Although the Museum of the American Military Family is currently an online museum, the organization has been gifted seven historic military housing units from the early 1940ss and is in the process of fundraising to rehab them and set them in a permanent location in Albuquerque.
“With the help of grants and donations, we hope to have our groundbreaking in late 2014”, Woessner says. ‘We are really excited, so stay tuned! It is taking a village to raise this museum, and we are blessed to have so much support.”
Anyone interested in supporting this initiative should make contact with Dr. Woessner at firstname.lastname@example.org or at P.O. Box 5085, Albuquerque,
NM 87185. She can be reached by phone at (505) 504-6830.