WASHINGTON (Army News Service) — A new exhibit featuring the U.S. armed forces opened on Veterans Day 2004 at the Smithsonian Museum of American History.

A number of Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans recuperating at Walter Reed Army Medical Center attended a special preview of the new exhibit entitled, Price of Freedom: Americans at War. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard B. Meyers was also in attendance.

“I think this exhibit shows people that freedom isn't free,” said Staff Sgt. Joseph L. Bowser, a preview honoree who was injured in Iraq serving with the 293rd Transportation Company - a Reserve unit from Connecticut.

Living history presenters were at the exhibition's opening festival Nov. 13. Some were storytellers portraying characters from early American conflicts while others were veterans of more recent wars sharing their experiences. Among others, Retired Capt. Ronald Radcliffe discussed his experiences as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. Lt. Col. Donald Byers, the last Korean War veteran to retire from active duty, recounted his service as a member of a machine gun platoon in Korea.

The Liberty Belles recreated a World War II USO show.

The permanent 18,000 square feet exhibition features military events from 1756 to today - beginning with the French and Indian War and progressing through the military experience from the Revolution through the Global War on Terror. It also includes interactive media experiences and an array of relics, such as battle flags, firearms, swords, uniforms, medals and Soldiers’ equipment.

Of special note are:

  • George Washington’s commission from Congress as commander in chief of the Continental Army
  • Andrew Jackson’s uniform jacket from the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812
  • World War II radiogram alerting the Pacific Fleet: “Air Raid Pearl Harbor. This is no drill.”