Salute American Heroes In NC's Military Communities
North Carolina is proud of the men and women serving in our armed forces throughout the state, and in NC military communities there are tours, museums, and memorials where visitors can get a glimpse of the training, the dedication, and the sacrifice our service members and their families have made to protect our freedoms.
From tours of active ships and bases, to interactive museums, to quiet memorials, here are many of the sites across the state that honor the men and women of our modern military:
Museum of the Albemarle
Elizabeth City is home to the nation’s largest Coast Guard Air Station, and the community’s Museum of the Albemarle is now proudly hosting a tribute to Coast Guard Aviation called Out of the Blue. The exhibit features more than 120 artifacts, photographs, graphic panels, and a child-sized helicopter to tell the story of the Coast Guard from its formation in 1790 to present day.
82nd Airborne Division War Memorial Museum
This museum profiles the development of Fort Bragg’s 82nd Airborne Division forces from its inception to the present day. The museum houses over 4,000 artifacts from World War I through the Global War on Terror. Weapons, helmets, uniforms, photographs, parachutes and other items are on display inside, with a multitude of military aircraft set up outside.
Airborne & Special Operations Museum
This state-of-the-art educational facility houses exhibits and programs that highlight the honor, courage, duty, and heroic feats of this unique sector of our armed forces from its inception in 1940 to present-day operations. The museum includes rare artifacts, a large-screen theatre, and a 24-seat simulator that allows riders to “experience” a helicopter attack, parachute jump and off-road pursuit. Read article See video
Iron Mike Statue
Located at Randolph and Armistead Streets, this 15-foot statue is dedicated to the airborne trooper who is always watching, waiting, and alert. Since 1961, "Iron Mike" has been the post’s most prominent symbol. His stance is that of an airborne soldier who has completed a combat jump. Iron Mike is a symbol of the thousands of airborne soldiers that have defended American liberties in numerous world conflicts and continue to do so today.
JFK Special Warfare Museum
Providing a behind-the-scenes look at unconventional warfare, the museum houses weapons, military art and international cultural items. The emphasis is on Special Operations units from WWII to present day.
Sicily Drop Zone
Enjoy the breathtaking sight of paratroopers floating through the sky above Fort Bragg. Visitors can see actual airborne jumps at the Sicily Drop Zone off of Manchester Road. Call 910-396-6366 for a jump schedule recording.
Seymour Johnson Air Force Base
Home of the 4th Fighter Wing and the 916th Air Refueling Wing, this base occupies 3,300 acres of Goldsboro, located about 50 miles southeast of Raleigh. Each month, the base gives a free tour to the public, allowing visitors to meet the men and women serving their country here, and an up-close look the aircraft and weaponry that protect our country on a daily basis. See video
America’s First USO
The United Services Organization (USO) of Jacksonville, North Carolina was the first such organization in the country. It was established on April 23, 1942 and has been in operation every day since then, continuing to faithfully serve military service members and their families in many ways, including serving a hoiday feast to 5,000 military members and their families every year.
“THEY CAME IN PEACE” is the simple statement etched on the walls of this memorial to the 241 Marines, Soldiers, and Sailors who were killed on October 23, 1983 when a terrorist bomb blast destroyed a Marine Headquarters in Beirut, Lebanon. Many of those killed and injured were residents of Jacksonville who had been sent to Beirut as part of an international peacekeeping force. The community rallied around its military family and raised the money needed for this beautiful tribute to the fallen heroes.
Missiles and More Museum
From 1946-48, the Assembly Building on Topsail Island was the research and testing site for Operation Bumblebee, a top-secret missile program operated by the US Navy. Now, the same building is home to the Missiles and More Museum, which preserves articfacts and data from Operation Bumblebee, as well as exhibits on natural history, Native Americans, and pirates.
Montford Point Marine Museum
The Montford Point Marines were the first African-Americans to serve in the United States Marine Corps. The black Marines were segregated at Montford Point Camp to train between 1942-1949. The men served in all-black units, mostly in the Pacific Theater, and distinguished themselves while battling racism from within and enemies from without. The Montford Point Marine Museum was established to preserve the legacy of these brave men, and has a large collection of photographs, documents and artifacts that forever capture the unique history of African-American Marines from 1942-1949.
Onslow Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Nestled in the tall pines of Lejeune Memorial Gardens is the Onslow Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Although a work in progress, it was dedicated & opened to the public in 2009. The memorial is dedicated to the men & women from all branches of the military who served during the Vietnam era. It is one of the largest Vietnam memorials in the nation, and features more than 58,000 names of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country while serving in Vietnam. It is located near the Beirut Memorial & the 9/11 Iron in Lejeune Memorial Gardens (outside Camp Johnson) on Montford Point Road.
Lexington - Davidson County
NC Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial
This memorial, just off Interstate 85 between Lexington and Thomasville, consists of a wall with a circular back made of bricks made in NC, with a panel listing the names of the more than 1,620 North Carolinians killed or missing in Vietnam. The 1.5-acre site also honors the 216,000 people from NC who served in the war, and contains 100 NC River Birch Trees to represent the state’s 100 counties.
Battleship NORTH CAROLINA
Located across the river from downtown Wilmington, the Battleship NORTH CAROLINA is a living monument to those who served aboard her decks during some of the most heated naval battles of World War II. The ship is one of the most highly decorated of the war, serving in nearly every major battle in the Pacific theatre. Today, visitors can walk her decks and envision the daily life and fierce combat that her crew faced, and learn about the ship’s unique history and the massive community campaign that brought her to the Cape Fear River. See video
Coast Guard Cutter Diligence
This active Coast Guard Cutter spends its days at sea performing search and rescue missions, drug interdictions, and fisheries protection, but when it’s home, the Diligence ties up right to Water Street on Wilmington’s riverfront, and gives free tours to the public of the flight deck, the bridge, and other areas of the ship. Wilmington’s support of the Diligence has earned it the designation of official “Coast Guard City”. Watch the video
added: November 6, 2009
updated: November 9, 2009
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