New Exhibit & Anthology to Debut in September 2017


Tales from the DEFAC (Dining Facility)

Erik Woessner

There is an old saying that the Army travels on its stomach. It is true that a hot meal can boost flagging morale, and certainly gives soldiers a chance to relax and unwind a little. However, just like every other part of the big green machine, sometimes the DEFAC hits a little snag now and then. Here are a few of the hijinks and incidents that I can recall during my time in the Service.

One Generator, Two Cans

During one particularly stressful field problem, 4-1 BSTB was conducting training at Fort Polk, Louisiana. As such, our mess section was the highlight of our day—that, and the occasional alligator and poisonous snake/ spider sighting, but I digress… Anyway, we were at the midpoint of our field problem, and everyone was looking forward to hot chow with about the same level of enthusiasm as we would being reunited with a long-lost relation. So, that evening as we arrived at the mess, and what did we see? Several sheepish-looking cooks and nothing but salad (anyone who has had an army salad knows it’s 90% iceberg lettuce mix and not much else.) PB&J and a few snacks. Naturally, we were sore distressed! Hot chow, even bad hot chow, is always a morale booster.

Later, we discovered why we had no hot chow that night, or any hot food for the next two days. As it turned out, the cooks had somehow managed to pour five gallons of water into their generator instead of JP8. This is despite the fact that water cans and fuel cans have a different cap and handle configuration, and are of course, distinctly labeled, and the fact that the SOP states the two are not to be stored near each other.  We eventually learned that the culprit was one of the mess sergeants who had made a mistake.  The moral of the story is that even E-5s make mistakes and one should always pack an emergency supply of ramen noodles.

 To Eat or Not to Eat.

Food is one of the most often talked about subjects in the Army –usually regarding how lousy it is. But despite the argument, most of us appreciated having it. Unfortunately, sometimes our DEFAC warriors make a minor miscalculation, and the result is as follows.

While at NTC in beautiful Fort Irwin( those of you who have been there know I’m lying now) I was part of S-6.  We were heading to get chow after a long day of putting out commo fires– only to discover that our unit had “forgotten” about us and had made no provision for feeding us. Talk about a bad start to NTC. We made do with white bread and mushy peas that night. Fortunately, we did have a stash of MREs in the back of the truck, so it wasn’t a total disaster. The moral of the story is always bring peanut butter and jelly with you to the field… just in case.

 DFAC Basics

People often complain about how little time they have for lunch, that they spend more time getting to and from chow than they do eating it. Well, depending on when and where you went to Basic, you learned the luxury of time was in very short supply. At Fort Jackson, during Basic, we had about ten minutes to eat. We had to wait until everyone had their trays then, and I stress only then, did we get to eat and our Drill Sergeants were always keeping an eye on us. If they felt we weren’t enthusiastic enough, then they got us out early. We normally had about ten minutes to eat, which I can assure you, is plenty of time to empty your tray, and of course, not ask too many questions about what you were eating.

If that weren’t vexing enough, we would often have to earn our meal by answering questions or recite the Soldiers Creed or sing the Army song, give a war cry, or receive the fundamentals of marksmanship… It was not unusual to have a change of plans– sometimes we ended up having our chow times changed because another training platoon needed to go first. So, when you complain about your lunch hour, take a moment to remember those poor soldiers in Basic and their hardships.



Training ID (?)

by Jennette Wesley

My Pop made this “ID card” for me before I was old enough for the real deal. I showed it with seriousness and pride each time I went in the PX or commissary. He was US Army and worked in the IG Farben building in Frankfurt in the mid 60’s. One day I went in to the office with him on a weekend and he presented this to me. My first in a long line of military dependent ID’s. It was like training wheels!

Our Museum Celebrates One Year on Route 66!

On July 9, 2017, the Museum of the American Military Family & Learning Center (MAMF) will have been in its current location on Route 66 for one year. Open on weekends and by appointment, 882 people have visited us. Our small all-volunteer board works hard to make our museum a relevant and welcoming presence, locally and online.

Since last July, MAMF has:

  • Hosted a monthly “Mid-Month Movie” series
  • Created and exhibited “GI Jokes: a Somewhat Light-Hearted Look at Military Life (now permanently on display at MAMF)
  • Published our first anthology “From the Front Lines to the HomeFront: New Mexicans Reflect on War”
  • Hosted numerous reading and discussion groups
  • Conducted transformative papermaking workshops (Fatigues to Flags) for women veterans
  • Sponsored and coordinated events for the New Mexico Midway Route leg of Run For the Wall motorcycle event
  • Hosted 3 Naturalization ceremonies
  • Built and dedicated a Memorial to Military Families, located in Santa Fe, New Mexico

What does the rest of the year look like?

  • We are wrapping up our call for your stories for our two anthologies, “SHOUT: Sharing our Truth” and “War Child: Lessons Learned Growing Up in War” as well as our cookbook. (These will be published in October and November 2017)
  • Our fifth exhibit, “Inside Out” will open in October 2017
  • We are creating our sixth exhibit, “Host Nation Hospitality” which will open some time in December

We have done this through memberships, some arts and humanities grants and through donations from regular folks who want to help us continue to preserve and share our unique culture…

Please get involved!

  • Share our museum Facebook page with your friends and family, visit our website and check out our many blogs, podcasts and other social media.
  • Send us a favorite written memory to share on our blogs and preserve in our special collection library
  • Become a member, or donate to our memorial fund.
  • If you are cleaning out your attic or garage and you come across military family memorabilia you no long want—please consider donating it to MAMF.

We thank you all for your support of our very special museum…It’s been a wonderful year!


Support MAMF by becoming a member

For more info, click here


In 1946, VA Voluntary Service was established as part of General Omar Bradley’s modernization of the Veterans Administration.

In June 1945, less than two months after Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death and Harry S. Truman assumed the presidency, he selected fellow Missourian General Omar Bradley to head the Veterans Administration. Bradley was confirmed and took his place at VA in August of that year. Bradley was charged with modernizing VA and he wasted no time in doing so.  He established a national chaplain service in November and after getting congressional approval to create a professional Department of Medicine and Surgery in January 1946, set out establish other vital services to improve care for veterans.  The Army had a long and successful record of working with volunteers and social organizations, and he knew that VA could benefit from coordinating volunteers at a national level, too.

The roots of large-scale volunteerism began during the Civil War.  Men, women, and children in both the Confederate and Union territories who could not fight in the war, volunteered to do anything needed to help soldiers and the war effort. In June 1861 President Lincoln authorized the U.S. Sanitary Commission, an entirely volunteer group from New York, to help the Union Army medical department and legions of short-term “volunteer” soldiers that were enlisting to fight in the war.  Local branches were established in many cities and “sanitary fairs” were held to raise money that bought ambulances, hospital ships, medical supplies, and personal items for wounded and convalescing soldiers. These volunteers documented burial locations for soldiers who died from their wounds, wrote letters to families, read to soldiers, and much more to comfort them or their families.image001

The U.S. Sanitary Commission was the largest national volunteer organization in American history at the time, igniting passions for those fighting the war and attracting thousands of volunteers like poet Walt Whitman, Clara Barton, and Frederick Law Olmsted to help them.  Service with the U.S. Sanitary Commission inspired many of its volunteers to continue the work after the war, resulting in numerous new social and veterans fraternal organizations.  The Grand Army of the Republic and American Red Cross are examples of Sanitary Commission spin-offs that were established after the war to provide services not only to veterans, but to their widows, families, and orphans, as well as immigrants and the poor. The U.S. Sanitary Commission played an essential role in proving the need for “soldiers homes” after the war that resulted in the establishment of the first federal institution in the world solely for disabled veterans of the “volunteer” forces in 1865.  That institution, initially known as the National Asylum for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, was the origins of what today is known as VA’s Veterans Health Administration.

1919_06_17_Red Cross to help find beneficiaries_TheSpokesman-Reviewp4 The passion for disabled soldiers and veterans, which sprang to life on a massive and national scale during the Civil War, became a new part of the American ethos, after the war, and VA and its predecessors were beneficiaries of that good will.  During World War I, the Treasury Department was tasked with providing medical care to World War I disabled veterans, through its Bureau of War  Risk Insurance(BWRI) and Public Health Service (PHS).  Surgeon General Rupert Blue asked the American Red Cross for help and their volunteers supplied a significant auxiliary workforce that ranged from filing clerks to nurses and social workers. The Red Cross provided the first organized coordination of volunteer services in federal veterans programs, but as the Veterans Bureau, and later the Veterans Administration, took over roles once done by the Red Cross, much of that was lost.

As the U.S. geared up to fight yet another war in 1941, volunteer organizations once again came to the aid of service men and women and VA. General Bradley knew very well the important role that volunteers played in maintaining morale and hope in his troops during the war and that they could do the same for them as veterans.  Bradley established a Special Services Division in 1946, just like Army had, which included a chaplain service, voluntary service coordination (VAVS), recreation service, and canteen service.  Establishing a national office with experienced staff to meet with leaders of volunteer and veterans organizations was a common-sense move that has seen VA’s volunteer program grow, professionally, over the past 70 years into one of the largest, most experienced, and respected corps of volunteers in the federal government.

While VAVS celebrates its 70th anniversary this year, it continues the work with veterans that began 155 years ago, and has found its own place in American history.  I dare say that the men and women of the U.S. Sanitary Commission would be most proud of their modern brothers and sisters caring for this generation of veterans.

VA Historian




Request Operation Footlocker for your school reunion!