/ The Atlanta Traveler
Atlanta — By Linda Erbele on March 13, 2010 at 3:50 pm
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Experience Battlefield at the National Infantry Museum

Last June, with little fanfare, the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center at Patriot Park opened in Columbus, about two hours south of Atlanta. (See map.)  This world-class $91 million museum features interactive displays that allow visitors to shoot an M-4 and experience a taste of what  soldiers see, feel and hear. The M-4 simulator is the same simulator that the Army uses to train. The National Infantry Museum is the only civilian facility in the country to have one.

Another very authentic room allows visitors to walk in a jungle trail, complete with the heat and humidity that the Viet Nam-era GIs endured. There’s even the ever-present threat of a deadly enemy close at hand. In another room, you can locate combat zones anywhere in the world — maybe see the places where your father or grandfather fought. There’s a Hall of Valor display and a Ft. Benning gallery that demonstrates the training that young soldiers go through. Every Thursday and Friday, Ft. Benning’s Infantry School holds graduations at the museum, and families come from all around the country to congratulate their loved ones.

Whether or not you have been personally been touched by the military or the war, this museum will leave you with a deep respect for the sacrifices made by the foot soldiers of the Army. A special gallery is dedicated to the loved ones who remain at home and sacrifice too.

The museum has a fine-dining, casual-atmosphere restaurant called the Fife and Drum, and a 3D IMAX theatre, which is currently showing Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure through this weekend. Hubble 3D starts Thursday of next week.

Outside the museum is a World War II Company street — a collection of World War II era buildings saved from the wrecking ball and renovated to look as they did in the 1940s. These include a chapel, a barracks and the headquarters and sleeping quarters used by General George Patton when he was at Ft. Benning. The premier exhibit is called the Last 100 Yards. Here visitors walk a ramp leading to various battles that our country has fought, to the sound of boots marching and the occasional barked orders of a drill sergeant. The ramp is lined with life sized soldiers, cast from living military people.

It is open from 9-5 Mon – Sat and 11-5 Sunday. There is no admission charge for the museum.

(Photos: National Infantry Museum. Exterior by Harlan Hambright. Used with permission.)

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