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New Museum Honors Airborne, Special Forces

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FAYETTEVILLE — The countdown is on for a new museum honoring one area of the military. The new Airborne and Special Operations Museum opens to the public a week from Wednesday.

The $22 million museum stretches over 50,000 square feet. The Army's most modern museum spotlights American Airborne and Special Operation forces dating back to World War II.

The history of those who jumped into battle is captured through exhibits, interactive displays and high-tech productions.

Many of the workers and volunteers at the museum have strong military ties.

When the museum opens to the public August 16, what they will see is expected to wow them. What they may not see or hear about are the military ties that have brought people here to work and volunteer.

Rick Canfield knows a lot about military weapons, serving 27 years in the military as an infantryman. Now, he is cleaning and restoring guns at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum.

"They really had nobody who knew about weapons. I was available, plenty of free time," he says.

The 45-year-old is available because he just retired last week.

Canfield did not hesitate to give his time, along with his personal artifacts. The sergeant major's Desert Storm uniform, gas mask and display flag will be on display.

"History, like anything else, is an item that can evaporate over time and if you don't keep track of it now, the little idiosyncrasies of how we do things can disappear with living knowledge," Canfield says.

When the museum opens, it will be filled with nearly 200 volunteers. Many of them are former soldiers or military spouses.

Gift shop manager Sylvia Fincher never served, but her father did in World War II. She is also a military wife. The 56-year-old says working at the museum honors her family.

"Once you are exposed to it and really understand what military is all about, it's instilled in you," Fincher says. "It just brings out such a pride and love for your country."

Teenagers have volunteered at the museum, too.

The big opening is slated for August 16, which is National Airborne Day. Admission is free.

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Melissa Buscher, Reporter
Michael Joyner, Photographer
Kay Miller, Web Editor

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