One of the things military families tell me when they visit our museum is that they miss the life they left behind when they left the service. That life, of course, means different things to different people, but sometimes it’s quite clear that they are looking back nostalgically to what author and historian Mary Edwards Wertsch calls “life inside the fortress.”
The “fortress” refers to a military installation where families work, live, shop, and play inside the installation’s perimeter fence. Living and working in such close proximity creates a very tight-knit community. While this community is comprised of very different individuals with very different perspectives, these individuals are bound together by a common purpose: the mission.
On an installation, at 5 o’clock pm, everything comes to a stop as the National Anthem plays over a loudspeaker. Children stop playing, cars come to a halt, and anyone walking outside comes to a stop. At 5 o’clock everyone faces the flag and places their hand over their heart or, if in uniform, salutes. The National Anthem also is played in installation movie theatres, and the audience stands at attention prior to viewing the feature.
There is a sense of pride and duty that comes with being a military family, and living on an installation requires a modicum of discipline: yards must be kept to a certain standard, children mustn’t run amok, rules must be followed.
One Air Force daughter says, “I grew up knowing that I was a child ambassador representing the United States, the Air Force, and my immediate family.While living overseas and learning new customs and meeting new people, I represented the best of the United States.”
I grew up in Germany knowing that what I did reflected on my parents. If I did something wrong, people would tell them, and there would be Dire Consequences. Luckily, I was a pretty good kid, and the only dire consequence which happened was after my father received a letter from the Post Commander reprimanding him for allowing me to have 36 overdue library books. I was banned from the library for six months.
All people who have left this lifestyle, whether they liked it or not, have stories to tell.
Spouses often reminisce about living in base housing. They acknowledge the lack of privacy, but they also point out the great connections they built. Living in stairwells or in the close quarters of a military installation, means that the adults keep an eye on the kids, everybody knows everybody’s business, and one can’t really “escape the busyness” of the military tempo.
Shannon remembers life on Holloman Air Base during the Vietnam War. She describes when a jeep pulled up to her quarters. “I watched from the window as they walked up to the house. They spoke to my mom for a few minutes and then mom came in. I remember holding my breath (we knew what this meant). She said, ‘I need you and your brother to go next door and stay there until I get back.’ We didn’t ask questions, we went…It wasn’t until years later that mom talked about it though. She told me that she was going to the houses of wives that were being told their husbands were not coming back. She hated the task, but she said she would be damned if those women were going to face that time alone.”
Even as times have changed, the conflicts are different, more spouses work, and life doesn’t solely revolve around the installation, military spouses still look out for one another.
Sometimes it’s in social media groups like Facebook, where someone might post “We’re moving to base soon, which pediatric dentist in town do you recommend”? Or, “There are two black-and-white dogs running down my street, does anyone know who they belong to?” Or, “Can anyone look after my toddler while I run to the commissary for an hour?”
As our lives get busier and increasingly more isolated, we don’t have as much face-to-face contact with our neighbors as we used to, and small social media groups can be very helpful in bringing people together, building connections, and sharing information.
Adult brats often say that they can sense another brat, even in a crowd of strangers. Brats are drawn to each other because of their shared experiences. That happened to me just the other day at an East Mountain Regional Chamber of Commerce meeting. As I introduced myself to my tablemates, the man sitting to my left mentioned he was a brat. A little later, a woman came up to me and told me she was a brat as well. Instant community!
As military families, we are used to moving into and out of communities each time we PCS (move) even while yearning for a permanent “home” someday. “Home is where the heart is” is an oft-quoted platitude–people are the heart of our communities, and communities are what draw people to them when they’re deciding where to settle.
Our neighborhood is small, and when my husband and I are out walking our dog, our neighbors wave as they drive by. We recently got together for a neighborhood New Year’s Eve party, and via Facebook and cell phone, we keep each other informed if we notice anything out-of-the ordinary. It’s nice to have human connections.
Small communities are special. That’s one reason we chose to locate our museum in Tijeras—next to Molly’s Bar, because we wanted to be a part of a small, lively town and part of Route 66’s continuing history. We love the mountains, the folks who come and go from Molly’s, the tourists who are cruising the Mother Road, and the East Mountains’ unique vibe. People are neighborly here; they have time to visit a little. They offer to help someone out. They leave little painted rocks on our museum doorstep.
We hope our museum will become an increasingly important part of the business and tourism ecosystem here, and that as we grow and expand, we can meet many more of our East Mountain neighbors. Stop by the museum for a bit, let’s share a story and get to know each other!
(Circe Olson Woessner is the executive director of the Museum of the American Military Family & Learning Center. The museum collects and preserves the stories of military families of all branches and generations. The museum is located at 546B Highway 333, Tijeras.)
By Circe Olson Woessner, Director, MAMF
It has become an annual event to reflect on our past years’ accomplishments and goals achieved, and to marvel how much our small-but-mighty board gets done. So, here’s MAMF’s year in review.
In February, we had a Valentines making class. A couple of days later, we helped with a chili cook-off fundraiser at Indian motorcycle of Albuquerque. It was a great success and we made some new friends and raised some money for Run for the Wall (RFTW).
In the spring, we had a DODDS teacher/student get-together and completed our “Brathood” project. Last year, we’d asked people on Facebook to give us quotes describing military brat “core values” and wrote them on the antique car hoods we have in our backyard. We filled in the gaps with more quotes, and called the project done.
We learned that one of our videos on the museum website took first place in the New Mexico Press Women communications contest and received an honorable mention in the National Federation of Press Women’s contest.
May was busy as usual. We started the month with our War and Peace Fest, hosted events for RFTW riders at the museum and in the community. I was the New Mexico Midway Route Coordinator for RFTW, and was responsible for coordinating meals, route permitting, law-enforcement, stops and events as they crossed New Mexico over two days. Volunteers from all over the state went out of their way to feed, entertain, and host nearly 350 riders passing through on their ride from California to Washington, DC.
Also, in May, we underwent the Collections Assessment Preservation process, and a museum expert came out to look at our collections, assessed our facility, and made recommendations based on her findings. We learned a great deal and look forward to putting some of those suggestions into place in 2019.
In June, we were thrilled to learn that we had won the 2018 American Association of State and Local History’s Albert B. Corey prize, a huge honor for our relatively new and very small museum.
Over the summer, we filmed our 10-minute music-documentary Love Song for the Dead at both the museum and at the VA hospital in town.
In August, we had a booth at the Albuquerque VA Golden Age Games and thousands of veterans and their family members came from all over the country to participate in athletic events. It was a lot of fun and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
In September, I was asked to guest lecture in one of the museum studies graduate classes at the University of New Mexico and our museum began working with a team of MBA interns from the UNM Anderson School of Management.
For its 86thbirthday, I created a small exhibit telling of the Albuquerque VA’s history, now on permanent display in the cafeteria at the hospital.
In October, we once again hosted a professor from the University of San Francisco, who is working on a book about military spouses. We coordinated meetings with spouses and military family programs directors on Kirtland Air Force Base.
On October 13, as one of the stops on the VA’s inaugural suicide prevention ride from Albuquerque to Angel Fire, NM, we hosted the riders at the museum and had a one-day pop-up exhibit on addiction and recovery. We also previewed our Love Song for the Dead at the at the chapel at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Angel Fire.
We hosted two naturalization ceremonies in 2018. We love to do them. It is so moving and wonderful to be with people as they become US citizens!
We displayed our exhibit Inside Out at Sandia National Labs on Coming Out Day, and also as part of the 10th anniversary of the Love Armor project at the Contemporary Center for the Arts in Santa Fe.
In late fall, I attended the New Mexico Association of Museums conference in Taos, where I learned a great deal about museums and place-making, and met a lot of great people with whom we’ll collaborate in the future…Speaking of collaboration, our museum was asked to contribute artifacts to Hometown Heroes,an exhibit of Medal of Honor recipients from the state of New Mexico, and a Vietnam War exhibit at the West Baton Rouge Museum in Louisiana.
We officially debuted Love Song for the Dead and introduced our Lines Across Time project the first weekend in November.
Veterans Day weekend contributors read passages from our anthologies at Bookworks, a local independent bookstore in Albuquerque.
So, what seemed to be a slow year, actually was really a year full of substantive events in our progress.
We couldn’t have done it without our board members, our volunteers, our supporters, and our donors…
We thank you all and wish all of you a wonderful 2019. (Big plans to be unveiled in early February!)
Premier for our film “Love Songs for the Dead” and the Debut of “Lines Across Time: A Memory Booth Project”
On November 3, we had a very moving and inspiring day–remembering and honoring our loved ones who’d passed on. About 30 people screened our film or participated in our memory booth project, which is a joint project between MAMF and UNM’s Arts-in-Medicine program. Mary Cockburn (R1 of NM) and Kelly Frey (Hometrust Mortgage) are both part of the Heroes Home Advantage real estate program.
by Circe Olson Woessner
When I first read the e-mail, my heart skipped a beat.
“On behalf of the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH), I am delighted to inform you that the Museum of the American Military Family and Learning Center was selected as the 2018 Albert B. Corey Award winner by the Leadership in History Awards committee. The AASLH Leadership in History Awards is the nation’s most prestigious competition for recognition of achievement in state and local history.”
In 2011, when we founded the museum, our small board had no idea what we were doing. We had an idea—and good intentions—and that was about it. We were not museum people; we were federal employees and retirees. We knew we wanted our museum to have meaningful, thoughtful programming, and that it would touch on all aspects of military life—the good, the bad, and everything in between. We wanted to portray an accurate picture into military family life, and to represent all types of military families.
I continued reading.
“The Albert B. Corey Award is named in honor of a founder and former president of AASLH and recognizes primarily volunteer-operated organizations that best display the qualities of vigor, scholarship, and imagination in their work. We congratulate you for the work that has brought this honor.”
Without a formal museum background, we had to be creative and intuitive. What would we military families like to tell? We collected stories for our anthologies, From the Front lines to the Home Front:New Mexicans Reflect on War, War Child: Lessons Learned from Growing Up in War,and Shout! Sharing Our Truths: Writings from LGBT Veterans and their Families, and hosted theatrical productions, we created exhibits such as Sacrifice & Service: The American Military Family, Schooling With Uncle Sam, GI Jokesand Inside Out: Memories From Inside the Closet. With these exhibits, we discussed military family life, showcased the DoD schools’ history, explained military humor, and, though art, shared LGBT service members’ experiences. We built a memorial to military families up in Santa Fe. Our small volunteer force poured our heart and soul into our programming.
It was because we tell the military family story in creative ways, we were awarded the Corey Award.
We’ve used hot pads, ACU shirts and pants, aprons and paper as canvas to create a visual portrait of military family life. We’ve collaborated in theatrical productions and filmed a short documentary, Love Song for the Dead: Honoring the Sacrifice & Service of New Mexico’s Military Families. In late 2018-2019 we plan exhibits around Host Nation Hospitality, Addiction/Recovery, and a Korean War-era Christmas exhibit and picture book set in Cold War Japan. We are collaborating on a play with several theatrical groups in Richmond, VA, thanks to a generous grant from the Arcus Foundation.
Because people process information in different ways, every year we think of new ways to tell the military family story, and as things change, we try to keep up with history.
We could not have received the Corey award without all the people out there—to include Nucleus readers—who have offered suggestions, contributed a story or two, or who have answered a call to volunteer or to donate items. We depend on the generosity of strangers to donate a dollar to two to our coffers to fund a project and to help us pay the rent.
We are excited for the future—and want to thank you for your support—and your trust. We could not tell your story without your permission—and we are proud that so many people have trusted us with their memories.
If you haven’t visited us, yet—please do—we are open weekends from 12:30-5:00 and by appointment.
For Immediate Release
Circe Olson Woessner
Museum of the American Military Family
Museum of the American Military Family Wins 2018 AASLH Albert B. Corey Award
NASHVILLE, TN—June 2018—The American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) proudly announces that the Tijeras-based Museum of the American Military Family and Learning Center is the recipient of the Albert B. Corey Award for the program, INSIDE OUT: Memories from Inside the Closet. The AASLH Leadership in History Awards, now in its 73rd year, is the most prestigious recognition for achievement in the preservation and interpretation of state and local history.
The Albert B. Corey Award is named in honor of a founder and former president of AASLH and recognizes primarily volunteer-operated organizations that best display the qualities of vigor, scholarship, and imagination in their work. The Leadership in History Awards committee presents the Corey Award at their discretion. This special honor also includes a $500 award for the organization.
“Inside Out: Memories from Inside the Closet,” is an exhibit at the Museum of the American Military Family (MAMF) which debuted on September 17, 2017 with a music and spoken word program. The exhibit is a collection of personal stories and art painted on military uniform shirts by LGBTQ military veterans and facilitated by psychologist Dr. Kyle Erwin, of El Paso, TX. The exhibit coincided with the release of a MAMF anthology titled SHOUT! Sharing Our Truth: Writings by LGBT veterans and family members of the US Military Services. The book is co-edited by Dr. Circe Olson Woessner, MAMF Executive Director, and Richmond, VA, resident Lora Beldon, MAMF Artist in Residence, Founder of Military Kid Art Project and Co-Director of The BRAT Art Institute. In late 2018, MAMF will collaborate with Richmond’s TheatreLAB, also with help from Diversity Richmond, on a play, based in part, from the anthology, and will launch its follow-up exhibit, “Still Shouting!” in New Mexico.
This year, AASLH is proud to confer forty-four national awards honoring people, projects, exhibits, and publications. The winners represent the best in the field and provide leadership for the future of state and local history. Presentation of the awards will be made at a special banquet during the 2018 AASLH Annual Meeting in Kansas City, Missouri, on Friday, September 28. The banquet is supported by a generous contribution from the History Channel.
The AASLH awards program was initiated in 1945 to establish and encourage standards of excellence in the collection, preservation, and interpretation of state and
local history throughout the United States. The AASLH Leadership in History Awards not only honor significant achievement in the field of state and local history, but also bring public recognition of the opportunities for small and large organizations, institutions, and programs to make contributions in this arena. For more information about the Leadership in History Awards, contact AASLH at 615-320-3203, or go to www.aaslh.org.
The American Association for State and Local History is a not-for-profit professional organization of individuals and institutions working to preserve and promote history. From its headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee, AASLH provides leadership, service, and support for its members who preserve and interpret state and local history in order to make the past more meaningful in American society. AASLH publishes books, technical publications, a quarterly magazine, a monthly newsletter, and maintains numerous affinity groups and committees serving a broad range of constituents across the historical community. The association also sponsors an annual meeting, regional and national training in-person workshops, and online training.
Museum of the American Military Family To Publish Korean War Novel
At its March Open House, The Museum of The American Military Family announced the acquisition of the novel, Battle Songs: A Story of the Korean War in Four Movements. Written by Author in Residence Paul Zolbrod, a retired Allegheny College English Professor now living in New Mexico, it will be published by the newly established MAMF Press this spring. It follows four draftees inducted from mining and farming communities in rural Western Pennsylvania to fight in Korea in the early nineteen fifties. There each must each must confront the absurdity of combat within the framework of hisown identity to understand a war that remains unresolved to this day.
Copies are expected to go on sale by early April, with all proceeds slated to help underwrite routine Museum operating expenses. This book comes on the heels of an earlier Museum publication, From the Frontlines to the Home Front, an anthology of reflections of deployment edited by Zolbrod and written by veterans themselves, as well as family members of those who served over a period covering World War II through the campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. Copies are being distributed without charge by way of a series of open discussions sponsored by the Museum thanks to a New Mexico Humanities Council grant. Or they will be available directly from the Museum in exchange for a donation.
Plans are underway for another Museum anthology, War Child: Lessons Learned from Growing Up in War, again, with a family perspective in keeping with the Museum’s mission. Those wishing to contribute a story of their own are invited to do so. It should express a child’s point of view but from all perspectives–service members who were still teen-agers when deployed; adults who as children grew up in a war zone; or children who had a parent or sibling serving in war. Submissions can be about the recent campaigns, Vietnam, the Korean War era, World War II, and all conflicts in between. All pieces should be from a child’s perspective and, if applicable, include a reflection or lesson learned from the experience.
The Museum would especially like to include stories from children and young adults whose parents are currently serving. A story can be as long or as short as the writer chooses. Just make it heartfelt, honest, and interesting. We are looking for stories of trial and triumph and loss–stories that illustrate the variety of events that impact on day-to-day family life in war times. Potential writers do not have to consider themselves accomplished writers to participate. Editorial services will be available to sharpen contributions when needed. Stories can be submitted online to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Museum of the American Military family is a non-profit organization with a national outreach headquartered in Tijeras, New Mexico.
GI JOKES runs from 11/5/2016-12/2/2016 at Albuquerque’s Special Collections Library . MAMF Spouse Liaison Stacy and MAMF Director Circe set it up on November 4th.
The exhibit opened to the public on November 5th. After it closes, it will be available to travel and then it will be on display in the Museum of the American Military Family& Learning Center’s permanent location.
We’d like to thank our sponsors: Dominic Ruiz Graphics, Buzzy’s Stickers, Total Learning Curve Books, Comic Warehouse, Kaufman’s West, Rio Grande Credit Union…we so appreciate you.
The Museum of the American Military Family & Learning Center (MAMF) had a very eventful summer. On July 9, we had a ribbon cutting and opened the doors to very own space right next to the very famous Molly’s Bar.
We are happy to be part of the vibrant East Mountain community—our home in Tijeras is right on historic Route 66 and at the foot of the Turquoise Trail, a National Scenic Byway.
We had a large crowd at our grand opening: Senator Heinrich’s New Mexico office sent a representative who read a personal message from the Senator, Gloria Chavez, the Mayor of Tijeras, also made some remarks. Kirtland Air Force Base was represented, as was the Veteran community. We are very blessed to have such great support.
On July 21st, our board had its quarterly meeting, and we said goodbye to our Veteran Liaison, Elisabeth Sacco, who was moving back East. Our board is very involved in all of MAMF’s projects, and we went over the upcoming summer’s events and coordinated our schedules to include staffing the museum.
On August 3rd, MAMF Secretary/Public Affairs Ole represented MAMF at an Ernie Pyle Day planning meeting at the New Mexico Veteran’s Memorial. The Ernie Pyle Day is planning commemorative events in Albuquerque for 2017, and we will be participating.
On August 6, MAMF Director Circe, Spouse Liaison Stacy and Community Liaison Lisa took Operation Footlocker out to the Route 66 Run, Rally and Rock festival in Edgewood. MAMF Volunteers Jude and Ed staffed the museum for the day. Writer in Residence Paul dropped by and shared his extensive knowledge of history and literature with visitors.
On August 7 Circe and her husband Bill drove up to Santa Fe and met with representatives from the National Guard to pick out a location for the Military Family Memorial that MAMF is creating. It was determined that a spot right in front of the Bataan Military Museum would be perfect.
On August 31, Circe and Ole spoke to New Mexico Legislators at a special interim committee session at Central New Mexico College. The presentation was well received.
September 6th Ole was on the “Veterans Today” radio show on KVSF. He spoke to radio host Chris Abeyta about our need for help in constructing the Military Family Memorial as well as our soon-to-be released anthology, From the Frontlines to the Home Front: New Mexicans Reflect on War.
On September 16, MAMF hosted a Naturalization Ceremony for seven military wives who became US Citizens right in our “home”. Because September 16 is also POW/MIA Day and Constitution Day, the ceremony was especially meaningful. The guest speaker was military wife Mehreen Naqvi-Sharazee, herself a naturalized US citizen. Triangle Grocery in Cedar Crest provided a cake and Melba’s Floral Studios in Albuquerque created a gorgeous floral display and provided us with long-stemmed yellow roses for each new citizen.
On September 24, 35 motorcyclists dropped by MAMF as part of their Patriot Run, a fund-raiser for Run For the Wall and for the Sandoval County Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial.
On September 29 Ole and Circe attended the New Mexico Arts and the Military Arts/Humanities Round Table hosted by New Mexico Arts. Many artists, members of the New Mexico state government, representatives for the VA, and other service organizations participated.
Fall is here, and the museum is gearing up for a busy couple of months—we have an exhibit: GI Jokes: A Somewhat Lighthearted Look at Military Life opening on November 5th at the Special Collections Library at 423 Central NE in Albuquerque. Comic Warehouse and Kaufman’s West are sponsors of the exhibit. Paul, our Writer-in-Residence has just finished editing an anthology: From the Frontlines to the Home Front: New Mexicans Reflect on War. Our museum will be hosting reading/discussion groups using this book, which will not be for sale commercially. The book will debut around November 11. Stay tuned for dates and locations for the book groups.
Director Circe and Alexander George, both University of Maryland, Munich Campus alumni, have co-edited an anthology Eins, Zwei, G’Suffa: Memories from Munich Campus which is the third book in a series of memoirs. All proceeds from the book will go to support programming at the Museum of the American Military Family.
MAMF will also sponsor “mid-month movies”, a series of three WWII films generously donated by the WWII Foundation for MAMF to show. The first will be on October 15th at the Museum at 3:00 PM.
The most important project MAMF is working on is the creation of a memorial honoring military families-all generations and branches. It is slated to be placed in Santa Fe this November —fundraising is ongoing to bring this important memorial to fruition. The museum needs only $5,000 more to complete the project. Please help. All donations are appreciated…and donors will be acknowledged on the memorial signage.
Looking forward to 2017, MAMF plans two exhibits:
Host Nation Hospitality (May-June)and Passports and Pedagogy: One Teacher’s Travels (TBD) as well as a couple of transformative papermaking workshops in February/March.
All programs and exhibits are brought to the public free of charge and so MAMF depends on the generosity of individual donations and grants. Please consider a tax free donation to the Museum of the American Military Family an all-volunteer run 501 c 3 non-profit. To donate, please click here
Or send a check to:
Museum of the American Military Family
PO Box 5085
Albuquerque, NM 87185