From left: White Sands Missile Range Commander Brig. Gen. Greg Brady, Command Sgt. Maj. William Wofford, White Sands Test Center Commander Col. David Cheney, Garrison Commander Col. Chris Ward, Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Parker, White Sands Missile Range Historical Foundation President Francis Williams, White Sands Missile Range Historical Foundation Treasurer Jon Gibson, Field Representative for U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich, Dara Parker, Field Representative for U.S. Senator Tom Udall, Rene Romo, and DPW Director Jose Gallegos break ground for a new museum gallery during the Jan. 15 ceremony at the White Sands Missile Range Museum. (U.S. Army photo by Chuck Roberts)
The White Sands Missile Range Historical Foundation presented White Sands Missile Range Commander Brig. Gen. Greg Brady with a check in the amount of $858,433 during a groundbreaking ceremony Jan. 15 outside the White Sands Missile Range Museum to begin the construction of a new museum gallery.
"With the construction of new facilities we will have the opportunity to expand the scope of our exhibits," Brady said. "Some new exhibits will contain a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM, component with online content built in to support it. STEM education is one of our major focus areas as we work with our middle and high schools, community colleges and universities to develop and inspire our workforce of the future."
"On behalf of myself and Command Sgt. Maj. William Wofford I want to thank Museum Director Darren Court and the White Sands Missile Range Historical Foundation for their patience, hard work and most of all their dedication in making this event possible after many years of planning," Brady said.
The foundation raised a total of $555,000 over 20 years, then received a large donation from Paul and Joy Arthur. The White Sands Missile Range Historical Foundation was responsible for providing part of the funding to build the first permanent building that stands today. The new museum gallery will replace the temporary building that sits next to the current permanent building.
In 1992, the commanding general of WSMR at the time, Brig. Gen. Richard W. Wharton, Jr., was interested in starting a museum at WSMR. So he called on three civilian employees and told them to start a museum. Wharton had a small portable building from HELSTAF moved to an empty lot where the permanent museum now stands. WSMR employees Ed Townley and Irving Rubenstein then wrote a grant requesting the seed money to start a museum foundation, which would be the fund raising arm for the museum. The White Sands Missile Range museum was founded in 1994.
"This is gratifying. It is great," Townley said. "When we first started we thought we were going to have a small gift shop, a small temporary museum."
Townley said it is overwhelming to see what has happened over the last 20 years.
"When we first started we had a temporary building and then the foundation raised the money to build the current building. It is just a wonderful transition," Townley said.
He said the moving of the missile park was visionary. "It was about to deteriorate in front of Headquarters where it used to be, especially the V-2, and through donations and volunteers they got behind that and got the V-2 refurbished and rebuilt and built a permanent home for the V-2."
"I think WSMR is the most historic place in the world. We've had a lot of very committed employees who served on the foundation and contributed money to building the museum, and because of the involvement of employees (and other donors) we were able to accomplish this," said WSMRHF President Francis Williams.
Brady shared a story Williams told him about how for over twenty years WSMRHF members and volunteers sold fajita pitas and T-shirts at several venues to help raise funds for the museum.
"This shows her selfless service and dedication," he said.
Brady also thanked all the individuals and businesses who donated funds to help make this day possible. A special thank you went out to the family of Paul and Joy Arthur, who, through the Rear Admiral Paul K. Arthur, Ret., and Joy L. Arthur Living Trust, donated $337,912 to this effort.
Paul and Joy were longtime employees of WSMR and both were inducted into the White Sands Missile Range Hall of Fame.
Also present were field representative for U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich, Dara Parker, and field representative for U.S. Senator Tom Udall, Rene Romo.
"The WSMR museum is key to preserving this part of history and paying tribute to the individuals, military and civilian, working in service to our nation. I commend and thank all of those who helped make this new museum building possible. It has been a many years long effort by those who understand the immense value of the installation and its people," Heinrich said in a letter read by Parker at the ceremony.
"This 4,000 square foot renovation would not be on the verge of becoming a reality without the determination of Museum Director Darren Court, the White Sands Missile Range Historical Foundation, and its President Francis Williams, WSMR Commander Brig. Gen. Greg Brady, and the many volunteers here today who have worked so hard on this project," said Udall in a letter read by Romo at the ceremony.
"With this renovation the museum will now be able to showcase the story of a range that has played and continues to play a key role in defending our nation's national security," Williams said.
"Brig. Gen. Richard W. Wharton, Jr., was a visionary who felt that the history of WSMR had to be preserved by establishing a museum," Williams said.
"It is through their (White Sands Missile Range Historical Foundation) efforts that we are able to turn over the funding we collected to make this addition to the museum happen."