June 26--The Declaration of Independence, signed July 4, 1776, by representative of the 13 united states of America, provides for certain unalienable rights of the nation's citizens, including the pursuit of happiness -- and the freedom to view and appreciate art is a happy pursuit for many.
Thanks to the national Blue Star Museum program, three area museums are making that particular pursuit of happiness easier for the men and women who serve in the U.S. armed services and their families.
The Museum of Western Art, the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg and the Frontier Times Museum in Bandera all participate in the national program, which offers free admission to the nation's service members, including National Guard and Reserve, and their families from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
The program is a collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense and more than 2,000 museums throughout the U.S.
"I think it's wonderful to see the Museum of Western Art is participating in the Blue Star Museum program," said Hunt artist Roy Lee Ward, who did three tours in Vietnam at the DMZ and H" Chi Minh trail. "It takes me back to when I was a returning soldier out in California and received free passes to Disneyland. It's hard to return to normalcy after seeing so much death and dying, and anything that can help returning service men and women ease back into life at home is a wonderful thing. This program gives those who are now serving our country the opportunity to enjoy the finer things in life with their families, and that's a blessing."
According to the National Endowment for the Arts, more than 2,000 museums in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and American Samoa are taking part in the initiative.
The effort to recruit museums has involved partnerships with the American Alliance of Museums, the Association of Art Museum Directors, the Association of Children's Museums, the American Association of State and Local History and the Association of Science-Technology Centers. This year's Blue Star Museums represent not just fine arts museums, but also science museums, history museums, nature centers and dozens of children's museums.
"The Museum of Western Art has opened its doors to allow active military members and their families to visit the museum for free to express our appreciation for their service to our country," said Andy Simon, vice president of the board of the museum.
"Hopefully, they can take advantage of this offer to spend quality time with their families. This will give them the time and opportunity to bond again with their families, while enjoying the beautiful paintings, bronzes and sculptures that so vividly depict our Western culture and heritage."
Brandon Vinyard, director of marketing for the National Museum of the Pacific War, said the museum has long supported the men and women of the U.S. armed forces, and it is "proud to be part of the Blue Star Museum program. The program is very popular. So far this year, we have had 448 Blue Star tickets."
Formerly the Nimitz Museum, the complex is the nation's only museum centered on World War II's Pacific campaign. The six-acre campus includes the Memorial Courtyard, the Plaza of Presidents and the Japanese Garden of Peace.
In 2009, the museum opened the expanded George H.W. Bush Gallery, a state-of-the-art 33,000-square-foot exhibition that features 40 media installations, approximately 900 artifacts in 97 climate-controlled cases, 15 macro-artifacts and hundreds of photographs. Two blocks east of the main campus is the Pacific Combat Zone for guided tours of macro-artifacts and regularly scheduled combat re-enactments.
The Blue Star Museum program is just a small and simple way for organizations to say thank you to service members, Vinyard said.
"With all the cuts to our military it is great that a program was made that not only is educational but gives them an opportunity to get out as a family and experience the day," Vinyard said.
"The National Museum of the Pacific War and the Admiral Nimitz Foundation are grateful to our military service members for what they do and the Blue Star Museum program for helping us say thank you to them and their families."
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