Every Soldier a historian … and every Citizen too?

picture of Colonel Walter M. Herd

Colonel Walter M. Herd was commander, Joint Special Operations Command in Afghanistan before retiring to write his autobiography, Unconventional Warrior.  We asked him to share his thoughts on military museums.

Every time I visit a new town, I make a point to see if there are any military museums there.  If so, a visit is automatically on my agenda.  Visiting military museums not only shows us our military history, but the history of our nation, of our struggles, our successes and our failures.  History is not a dusty closet of old books, but the story of our people, our values, our flaws.  I learn of the activities of my ancestors when I visit museums.  My ancestors, OUR ancestors are the ones who settled this land, who created, improved and ultimately defended this concept of democracy.   Democracy; where each man, woman and child is of equal value.  Where each of us has the opportunity to pursue happiness and success as we see fit.

I remember a history professor telling me years ago, that one of the key differences between humanity and the animal is that we, mankind can learn from the history of others. Our knowledge is not limited to our own personal experiences, but can and should be enhanced by learning the history of others.

My two favorite military museums are the Infantry Museum at Ft Benning, GA and the Airborne & Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville NC, next to Ft Bragg. 

I have spent significant time and energy at both those forts … along with a few million other warriors over the last century.  I think we can gather moral and intellectual strength by learning that other Soldiers have climbed the same hills and overcome similar challenges.  Every professional Soldier is at least an amateur historian.  I would argue that many productive citizens are too.

Walter M. Herd

Colonel, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

Author of “Unconventional Warrior”