Imagine walking down a trench that resembles what World War I soldiers hunkered down in, and then putting on augmented-reality glasses to watch what it would have been like in battle.
A museum that’s also part amusement park plans to take you into different theaters of war, but it’s still a couple of years from completion.
“What we’re building out is landscapes of war that will represent World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and [the] Middle East,” says Dennis G. Brant, chief executive officer of the Americans in Wartime Experience. “We will also have rock walls, rope courses, obstacle courses, paintball, and a zip line that goes right over top of our tank track. Now our tank track will be a figure eight … and we’ll have tank parades weekly.”
The project, under construction off Interstate 95 in Dale City, may sound familiar. It’s been talked about for decades. Back in 2010, the Cecil and Irene Hylton Foundation donated 70 acres of land for it. Now 55 acres have been cleared. “We have brought in almost 600,000 cubic yards of fill dirt, and we have put in 300 60-inch water lines with manholes. We’re making progress like crazy,” says Brant, whose nonprofit has a major fundraising effort underway. “Our goal is to raise $45 million.”
First on the building agenda will be a restoration and maintenance facility for military vehicles collected by museum founder Allan D. Cors, who has amassed more than 100 operational tanks at what is known as the Tank Farm in Nokesville.
Brant says that in roughly 20 months, the maintenance building should be completed, and about 40 tanks from the Tank Farm will move there for the planned parades. At that point, one or two landscapes of war are expected to be finished, he says.
After that, a 38,000-square-foot museum building designed by architect Peter Gallagher, who’s known for the National WWII Museum in New Orleans and DC’s International Spy Museum, will be built. It will house planes, helicopters, submarines, and other military artifacts, as well as a theater and a leadership center where military or corporate leaders can bring groups for seminars and outdoor team-building exercises.
Visitors also will get to hear what war is like from hundreds of interviews the museum’s Voices of Freedom project conducted with veterans and their families.
“We’re trying to build something that people will understand what the military goes through for our freedom,” Brant says. “It’s what America needs right now.”
Feature image courtesy Americans in Wartime Experience