- The Washington Times - Friday, November 10, 2006

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President Bush helped dedicate the National Museum of the Marine Corps yesterday with a prediction that U.S. sacrifices in the Mideast will lead to a brighter future in the region.

“Years from now when America looks out on a democratic Middle East, growing in freedom and prosperity, Americans will speak of the battles like Fallujah with the same awe and reverence that we now give to Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima” in World War II, Mr. Bush said.

Mr. Bush and thousands of current and retired Marines converged on the Marine Corps Base in Quantico to celebrate the opening of museum on the 231st anniversary of the Corps.

After a 21-gun salute and a flyover of four F-18 jets, Mr. Bush told the crowd the museum will honor past and present Marines and preserve the core’s history for future generations.

“For too long, the only people to have direct experience of the Marine Corps have been the Marines themselves [-] and the enemy who’s made the mistake of taking them on,” Mr. Bush quipped, drawing laughter and applause from the audience.

“In this museum, you’ll experience life from a Marine’s perspective. You’ll feel what it’s like to go through boot camp, make an amphibious landing under fire or deploy from a helicopter in Vietnam.”

The museum opens to the public Monday and is expected to attract 250,000 to 600,000 visitors a year.

The 135-acre, 118,000-square-foot site is adjacent to the base. The building’s skyline is designed to resemble the five Marines and one Navy corpsman raising the flag at Iwo Jima in 1945.

“The museum will not make you into a Marine [-] only a drill instructor can do that,” Mr. Bush said. “But by putting you in the boots of a Marine, this museum will leave you with a rich appreciation for the history of the core.”

In the late 1980s, Congress authorized each military service branch to develop their own national historic centers. The museum is the centerpiece of the Marine Corps Heritage Center, which will include a memorial park, parade grounds, artifact restoration facilities and a hotel and conference center.

The museum’s construction began in 2004.

“It is here that the proud history of the United States Marine Corps will be appreciated, reflected upon and enjoyed like never before” said Ron Christmas, a retired lieutenant general and president of the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, which spearheaded the building of the museum.

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