Ribbon cutting Friday at Fort Carson museum

Monday, June 13, 2011

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.

Fort Carson breaks ground on new museum

Monday, May 03, 2010

FORT CARSON, COLO. -- Fort Carson officials broke ground on a new museum Thursday.

The groundbreaking marks Phase I of a three-phase project intended to bring history to the Mountain Post.

The idea for the historical center began in 1999 when members of the community organized the Mountain Post Historical Association.

Phase I of the project began with a groundbreaking of a temporary artifact display facility. Phase II is a much larger and a permanent historical facility and Phase III is a community effort to enhance that facility.

"Today is a significant day. It's a milestone in our efforts to make this a reality," said Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Ed Soriano, who is the president and chairman of the Mountain Post Historical Association.

And with a scoop of dirt, a long-standing dream is coming true.

"A facility that we want to build on behalf of the community and build for Fort Carson. A historical center that will talk about the 68-year history of Fort Carson and its relationship with the community, and to recognize the thousands of soldiers who have come and gone in this installation serving our country and our nation," said Soriano.

The museum will be filled with artifacts ranging from the World War I time period to present day.

"In fact, we have a few of the items that were captured with Saddam when he was captured during Operation Red Dawn. The 4th I.D. First Brigade was involved with that. So we have several items including the money box that was with him," said Steve Ruhnke, curator for the Fort Carson 4th I.D. Museum.

The Mountain Post Historical Association says the museum is a way to honor the men and women who serve our country every day.

"It truly is a way to recognize the contributions and the sacrifices that the great men and women have made to our nation," said Soriano.

And for Purple Heart recipient, Latoya Lucas, it means a lot.

"Not only would this project tell my story and what service members, especially soldiers from this post been through, but it will promote patriotism in our youth,” said Lucas.

Terry Sullivan, president and CEO of Experience Colorado Springs at Pikes Peak, says the museum would also serve as a tourist attraction and estimates that it would receive 75,000 visitors each year.

"Ultimately it will become the icon of the Mountain Post and I would hope that it would be used by all of the soldiers stationed here and people who visit the Mountain Post,” said Sullivan.

But the real purpose of the museum is to ensure that we never forget.

"There is probably no thing that worries a soldier more than people not recognizing what they've done and forgetting the sacrifice they've made," said Denny Cripps, campaign director for the Mountain Post Historical Center.

But the Mountain Post Historical Center does need help.

“We certainly need support. In any way possible whether it’s financial, volunteer, you name it. Whatever support we can generate to make this a reality. We’re well on our way to making it a reality but certainly support from the community is needed,” said Soriano.

If all goes according to plan the project will be completed in 2013.

Phase Renderings

  • Rendering Phase I
  • Rendering Phase II
  • Rendering Phase III

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    The Mountain Post has a long and important history, from WWII through the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Center, once completed, will tell the story of the men and women who have served our country at Fort Carson.

    ~Tom Wiersma, Director Public Works, Fort Carson, CO, and former US Army Captain.

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