Fort McCoy News June 14, 2013

Troops, Families can visit museums free for summer

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, D.C. — During the busy season of military transfers, adjusting to new communities and registering children for school, more than 2,000 museums across the nation will open their doors, free of charge, to servicemembers and their Families as a break from the summer challenges, a Defense Department official said.

Through Labor Day, Sept. 2, all active-duty servicemembers, National Guardsmen and reservists and their Families can take advantage of this cultural and educational opportunity in all 50 states.

Museums near Fort McCoy participating in the program include the Deke Slayton Memorial Space & Bicycle Museum in Sparta, the HH Bennett Studio in Wisconsin Dells, the Children's Museum of Eau Claire and Chippewa Valley Museum in Eau Claire, the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art and Wisconsin Historical Museum in Madison. For a full listing of participating museums, visit

"It's an exciting, inspiring, educational and economical activity for our Families to enjoy this summer," said Navy Cmdr. Leslie Hull-Ryde, a Pentagon spokeswoman.

Launching its fourth year in a news conference at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the 2013 Blue Star Museums Program is a collaboration among the Defense Department, Blue Star Families, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the museums to give servicemembers and their Families a way to spend time together in their local museums.

"After long deployments, rigorous training schedules and very long hours, our time with our Families is very limited and extremely precious to us," Hull-Ryde said. "We are so grateful (to have) these programs. This program is an investment in our Families."

A record number of museums are participating this year. The program began in 2010 with free access to about 600 museums, while this year's 2,000 is a figure that's still growing, Blue Star Families and NEA officials said.

"This program is helping us make memories — memories for our Families," Hull-Ryde said. "But it's more than that. It is making a difference not only in the force of today, but in the force of the future."