BY RUTH KINGSLAND
As a finale to a month of events to honor Camp Lewis’ 100th anniversary at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the Lewis Army Museum reopened its doors with a ceremony and ribbon-cutting event Aug. 31 after an extensive, yearlong renovation.
“Today is the day — for the last couple weeks, we’ve been talking about the history of Camp Lewis and JBLM in the process,” said Col. Nicole Lucas, JBLM garrison commander, as she spoke at the reopening of the museum.
The event followed a dedication ceremony outside the museum unveiling a plaque dedicating the Boulevard of Remembrance — a 6-mile-strip of Interstate 5 from Mounts Road to Lakewood that honors World War I service members.
“This is another way to celebrate the rich history of JBLM,” Lucas said after she assisted with the plaque dedication. “It’s a way to highlight our ties to the community and how involved the community is.”
“It’s really neat to put something permanent here,” she said of the large commemorative plaque that shares the story of the more than 500 trees initially planted in 1929 in memory of service members of the Great War.
The Washington State Department of Transportation officially began posting new Boulevard of Remembrance signs along the interstate in November. Within the next few years, a stand of memorial trees will be planted near the commemorative sign by the museum.
Washington State Representative Dick Muri, of the 28th District, thanked community members at the ceremony for their help in completing the current Boulevard of Remembrance project, including 92-year-old, Charlotte “Polly” Medlock, who spearheaded the project. Medlock and her husband, Robert, 94, an Army Air Corps veteran, first got Muri involved two years ago. The Medlock couple had pushed for finishing the project since the 1980s.
Polly Medlock attended the event Aug. 31 and said she enjoyed seeing the plaque dedicated and the project completed.
“Now my husband and I can start taking care of each other and work on staying alive,” she said.
Two members of the American Legion Doughboy Memorial Post No. 138 in University Place also participated in the event wearing World War I Doughboy uniforms.
Navy Vietnam-era veteran Mike Batnick and his friend, Army Vietnam veteran Lew Foster, both said they were honored to be part of the ceremony and represent their battle buddies.
“This is honoring our forebearers and those who set the pattern for us,” Batnick said. “It’s always an honor to serve and support in their place.”
More than 100 people attended the plaque dedication and museum opening, followed by the sealing of a time capsule of historic items, which will be kept on display at the museum. It’s planned to be opened in 100 years — in 2117.
“This is an extraordinary event with countless community members involved,” said Erik Flint, director of the Lewis Army Museum. “And it has taken an extraordinary effort to get to this day.”
There are 56 museums within the Army and 750,000 military artifacts in those museums, according to guest speaker, Ginger King Shaw, strategic planner, U.S. Army Center of Military History in Washington, D.C. Many of those artifacts are important in educating the public, she said.
Lucas also stressed the importance of remembering history in her speech.
“We need to remember our World War I and World War II veterans and all they did,” she said. “This is a piece of our history, and we need to remember — because if we don’t remember history, we may lose it.”