Ground was officially broken on the soon-to-be-built Marine Corps Heritage Center on Friday, marking a key phase on a project that has been 228 years in the making. The center is exactly what the name implies and it will bring focus to the history of the Marine Corps from an awe-inspiring, 135-acre complex in southeastern Prince William County.
The museum is expected to draw 250,000 visitors a year when it opens in 2005 and the center could draw close to a half million visitors in the following years.
The mammoth facility will provide a significant boost to Virginia tourism and fit nicely into the economy of Prince William and Northern Virginia. But most of all, the Marine Corps Heritage Center will present the deep history and tradition of the Marine Corps to the rest of America and to the world.
“The American people can view history through the eyes of the Marines,” Lt. Gen. Ronald Christmas, president of the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, told visitors at Friday’s ground breaking ceremony. “This finally allows us to tell our story as we would have told it.”
This includes 228 years of history where the Marines have guarded the right flank of America since its birth. From the time a young recruit enters boot-camp, he or she is instructed to learn the heritage of the Marine Corps just as they would learn the use of a rifle. It is the heritage of the Corps that bonds Marines together on the battlefield as well as with other Marines – young and old -?in civilian life.
The Marines serving on active duty today are direct descendants of those first Marines who reported for duty in 1775. The genealogy of the Marine Corps can be traced from the small force which battled the Barbary Pirates and raised the American flag over Tripoli in 1805 to the Marines who fought their way into Baghdad earlier this year.
All of this history will be on display at the Marine Corps Heritage Center when it opens adjacent to the Quantico Marine Corps Base. The museum’s design will make it stand out to those traveling on nearby Interstate 95. This includes a 210-foot tilted spire that will rise from a 160-foot glass atrium which represents the image of the flag raising on Iwo Jima during World War II.
Prince William County has had a close relationship with the Marine Corps for nearly a century and this heritage has been kept alive locally by each veteran who settled here after their active duty service.
It is very easy to say that the history of the U.S. Marines represents the history of the United States. And we are fortunate to have this history on display at the Marine Corps Heritage Center so close to home.