by Dr. Allen Dale Olson
A Small, Unique Museum Tells How
Imagine you are a teacher (or a lawyer or a cashier or any other employee who likes your job) married to a military spouse. At dinner one evening, you are informed that your spouse just got orders to move overseas or across the country. What happens to you? You, of course, should go along, but what about your own career? Is it over? Can it continue in the new location? Not likely if overseas. Maybe, but not for certain, if to another state.
Imagine you are a high school football player and the coach has just told you he is counting on you for your senior year, and you come home to a father telling that the family is moving to Germany next month.
Imagine you just finished first grade in your American school in Japan and your mother says the family is moving back to the “States.” Your first thought is that’s what a lot of your friends did, and you never saw them again.
Imagine you’re the mother of two toddlers living in a Filipino village and your husband has been summoned to the base because the Marcos government is falling and there may be civil conflict; you are told to stay indoors till further notice, and you hear planes overhead, see military convoys out the windows. Radio and television services have all but shut down.
Imagine yourself living on an American air base in Turkey, and you learn there is a coup underway to topple the government. Both the State and Defense Departments are ordering evacuations of Americans, some to Germany, some back to America, some to Spain. The military member may go on duty; the family is rushed away to an uncertain location without much time to pack or plan. Your personal effects and furnishings are left in Turkey.
Imagine a school principal calling you and your sister to the office where your mother and a high ranking officer are waiting to tell you your father’s plane just went down in Afghanistan and that he did not survive.
Imagine your only child coming home in a flag-draped coffin, the son you had nursed and comforted in your arms so long ago, and now you will never see him again.
Imagine you are a teen whose father or mother has just been deployed to a war zone where the family cannot go, and it’s up to you to help with the younger kids and household management for the next few months.
Imagine you and your mother and your siblings are out on a tarmac to welcome home your father, the one you haven’t seen for more than two years, and he comes to you in a wheelchair without the legs you tried to keep up with back when he would run and play with you.
These are real life situations faced by members of America’s military families. A child of a soldier or airman, sailor or marine will pass through an average of five or six schools en route to graduation. A son or daughter will probably have lived in at least one foreign country by the third grade. Almost one-fourth of all military kids – “Brats” – enter first grade speaking a language other than English.
These compelling stories of heroism, courage, strength, and pride are collected and preserved by the Museum of the American Military Family (MAMF), the only museum in the country completely dedicated to the mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, spouses, and partners who have loved and supported a member of America’s armed forces.
MAMF was founded in 2011 by Dr. Circe Olson Woessner (daughter of the author) while her son was serving in Iraq and her husband had just retired from an Army career (during which he had also deployed to Middle Eastern and Haitian combat areas). The Woessners and their two sons had moved eighteen times during LTC Woessner’s service before settling in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Woessner was worried about her son in Iraq but noted that military wives and mothers are tough and brave and deserve recognition for their sacrifices and service. How about a museum, like those for specific battles, squadrons, ships, or military units. Not really. A few museums, like the Infantry Museum at Fort Benning, have a small gallery about Army family life, but they are generally military branch specific. “I’ll start one,” she said.
For four years MAMF was an on-line presence, collecting documents, artifacts, photos, documents, and first-hand stories from around the world and from every war, including the American civil war. A handful of volunteer board members managed to sort and catalog and keep books and get tax-exempt status and register with the state public regulations committee and oversee the safe-keeping of everything in temporary facilities, including Woessner’s garage. » Read more
The Museum of the American Military Family and East Mountain Venture Crew 11 invite you to drop by the Museum for 5th Thursdays. The Crew will be on hand to interview you about your military service or your military family experiences, as well as to share items from our Operation Footlocker. If you have a nice speaking voice and would like to help us record some of our written memoirs, please stop by. Everyone has a story to tell—we’d love you to share yours with us! Stop by the Museum between 7:00-9:00 PM Thursday, August 31. We are located at 546 B Highway 333, Tijeras, right next to Molly’s Bar.
The Museum of the American Military Family & Learning Center is looking for an intern or volunteer who is pursuing a Communications/Public Relations degree to help out with the Museum’s social media and websites. Interns/volunteers will have an opportunity to work with the Museum’s varied social media platforms, and will also work closely with the Public Affairs Director to prepare press releases, make appearances (if desired) on radio and television. Interns will be able to create media projects for the museum for their podcasts, YouTube Channel and other oral history projects. If interested, there will be an opportunity to learn grant writing and script writing for short movie and/or audio clips, and to create content for blogs. The right person will have the opportunity to attend functions, meetings and to help create programming for the Museum. This is a good opportunity to get practical, hands-on experience in public affairs and social media and to be part of the Museum’s team. Being a Veteran, Military Spouse or Brat is helpful, but is not necessary. Interns will be given a small stipend, much experience and letters of reference as applicable.
The Museum is located in Tijeras, NM, and is open on weekends; much of this work can be done remotely.
Please contact Dr. Circe Olson Woessner at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone (505) 504-6830 if interested.
On July 9, 2017, the Museum of the American Military Family & Learning Center (MAMF) will have been in its current location on Route 66 for one year. Open on weekends and by appointment, 882 people have visited us. Our small all-volunteer board works hard to make our museum a relevant and welcoming presence, locally and online.
Since last July, MAMF has:
- Hosted a monthly “Mid-Month Movie” series
- Created and exhibited “GI Jokes: a Somewhat Light-Hearted Look at Military Life (now permanently on display at MAMF)
- Published our first anthology “From the Front Lines to the HomeFront: New Mexicans Reflect on War”
- Hosted numerous reading and discussion groups
- Conducted transformative papermaking workshops (Fatigues to Flags) for women veterans
- Sponsored and coordinated events for the New Mexico Midway Route leg of Run For the Wall motorcycle event
- Hosted 3 Naturalization ceremonies
- Built and dedicated a Memorial to Military Families, located in Santa Fe, New Mexico
What does the rest of the year look like?
- We are wrapping up our call for your stories for our two anthologies, “SHOUT: Sharing our Truth” and “War Child: Lessons Learned Growing Up in War” as well as our cookbook. (These will be published in October and November 2017)
- Our fifth exhibit, “Inside Out” will open in October 2017
- We are creating our sixth exhibit, “Host Nation Hospitality” which will open some time in December
We have done this through memberships, some arts and humanities grants and through donations from regular folks who want to help us continue to preserve and share our unique culture…
Please get involved!
- Share our museum Facebook page with your friends and family, visit our website and check out our many blogs, podcasts and other social media.
- Send us a favorite written memory to share on our blogs and preserve in our special collection library
- Become a member, or donate to our memorial fund.
- If you are cleaning out your attic or garage and you come across military family memorabilia you no long want—please consider donating it to MAMF.
We thank you all for your support of our very special museum…It’s been a wonderful year!
***HOME FRONT HEARTH: Recipes from Military Families around the World
This cookbook will be published in conjunction with the Museum’s exhibit, Host Nation Hospitality. Seeking recipes and stories to go with them, or food-related stories. Deadline: June 30, 2017. Recipes/Stories should be sent to: email@example.com
***WAR CHILD: Lessons Learned From Growing Up In War
Looking for first-hand stories from all perspectives—service members who were teenagers while deployed into combat, adults who, as children, grew up in a war zone, or children who experienced a parent or sibling serving in war. Submissions can be about the recent campaigns, Vietnam, the Korean War era or World War II—and conflicts in between. All pieces should be from a child’s perspective and, if applicable, include a reflection or lesson learned from the experience. We especially would like to include stories from children and young adults whose parents are currently serving. Deadline June 30, 2017
To submit a story, please e-mail Writer-in-Residence Paul Zolbrod at firstname.lastname@example.org.
***SHOUT! Sharing our Truth: An Anthology of Writings by LGBT Veterans and Family Members of the U.S. Military Services
Seeking first-hand experiences—good, bad, and in between—as an LGBT Veteran or family member, during and/or after military service. Our goal is to create a book that tells parts of your story that which will help others who live, or want to understand, the LGBT military family experience. Stories should reflect military experiences and/or family life.
Deadline June 30, 2017. Send submissions to: email@example.com .
For membership form, click here