Once free to hit the road again, plan a post-pandemic drive along New Mexico’s Route 66. Whether heading into or out of Albuquerque, keep your eyes peeled for the village of Tijeras, seven miles east of the city. Then find the Museum of the American Military Family and Learning Center—a living museum honoring military families with ongoing dialogue on the interplay between active engagement at the front and sacrifice at home.
The Museum sits modestly along an interesting stretch of that venerable roadway as it weaves through a scenic canyon and a charming mountain village, whose even more newly built civic buildings pay homage to a vanishing rural America. All of which makes it a fitting place to reflect on how families have contributed to military life–something a country seemingly always at war has overlooked for lifetimes.
As a volunteer, instead of using I-40, I’d take the Route 66 by-road—now posted as New Mexico highway 333—to get back and forth from my Albuquerque home when visiting the museum before COVID forced its temporary closure. I like going there to enjoy the exhibits, participate in one of its public events, and just sit with other visitors and stir up old memories going back before World War II to the first World War, or as recently as Afghanistan, aligning past and present the way the old highway and the Interstate do with east-west travel. Whether first discovering how family members serve, or already knowing first-hand the strains and triumphs of that complex living arrangement, the Museum comes alive for its guests.
The reception area is furnished to display temporary housing over the career span of life moving from post to post, assignment to assignment. Seated in a semi-circle of couch and chairs, visitors face a mantled fireplace, gaze at photos of uniformed loved ones, spot an old WWII vintage short-wave radio that allowed hope following the overseas whereabouts of a deployed husband or son. To one side sits a galley-sized kitchen separated from the living room by an open ironing board, adorned with a uniform waiting to be pressed. To the other sits a shelfful of bric-a-brac accumulated as souvenirs and round-the-world mementos. Behind them stands a rack of various uniforms whether dress or fatigue. Along the wall, written text details the wide range of family experience that accompanies military service.
Elsewhere throughout the museum, other items display domestic life curiously cosmopolitan in one way, spartan in another. Mugs lined up on a kitchen shelf name deployment sites world-wide; bronze cookware from an Asian kitchen or a Russian samovar in the Museum’s rear gallery of displays: all unique to a military lifestyle, ranging from blue-star window hangings, textbooks from overseas schools, and various medals and shoulder patches signifying an enduring lifeline connecting service in the field, and a makeshift hearth wherever a family might find itself fixed during times of separation, whether over a long career, or during a single, short tour of duty.
Taking that into consideration in a country perpetually at war or on edge to deter one, what family does not hold memories from as far back as the automobile’s mass production without at least one member having served? My own family is an example, although my parents never identified ours as a military one. But think again, I tell of my own three-generations. Soon after Pearl Harbor, I had two uncles inducted. Both my brother and I participated in the Korean war, he as a one-term enlisted soldier, I as a draftee. During the seventies, my live-in nephew served in the Navy. All contributing memories of departure and return, anxieties during deployment, exchanges by mail and telephone, packages shipped back and forth. Directly or indirectly, we all belong to military families and can be touched by what the Museum represents as part of Americana.
I consider it fitting to have it housed on Route 66, where during the forties the Andrews Sisters sang we should all take our kicks, commemorating a century of cross-country highway travel in tandem with upwards of generations of global military activity. To which the Museum dedicates its holdings, its public programs, its accumulated archival records, its own published books, and its ongoing live discussions going clear back to the advent of the Model T Ford. In other words, the Museum spans a kind of motorized memory lane, where today’s travelers can stop and reminisce on the nation’s east-west passageway between then and now and back again.
And oh, yes: this year the Museum marks its tenth anniversary. Come help celebrate. We are open by appointment seven days a week. Please try to call 24 hours in advance. For visits occurring on a weekday, please call (505) 400-3849. For weekends, please call (505) 264-7184. There is a suggested donation of $3.00 per person for admission.
Paul Zolbrod, MAMF Writer-in-Residence Emeritus
March 10, 2021
For immediate release
Contact: Dr. Allen Dale Olson, (505) 400-3849, OlsonAllen@msn.com
In recognition of its tenth anniversary, the Tijeras-based Museum of the American Military Family (MAMF) will open from 1:00 to 3:00 pm on Saturday and Sunday, March 20 and 21. Following Covid protocols, visitors will be limited in number and must wear masks and practice social distancing. MAMF docents have received state certification in Covid practices.
On display will be artifacts from around the world, including garments, tools, and instruments from Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, unique items such as a model of the infamous Nazi concentration camp at Flossenheim and some military uniform buttons from the American Revolutionary War.
Visitors can browse in the special collections library and review exhibits illustrating the life of a military kid, the special challenges and achievements of a military spouse, and a description of the world-wide school system operated b y the Department of Defense for military kids.
MAMF was founded on March 23, 2011, and its founder and executive director, Dr. Circe Olson Woessner, says “we would love to receive birthday cards in the mail or by visitors dropping them off during a visit.”
MAMF is at 546B State Highway 333 (Old Route 66) in Tijeras (right next to Molly’s famous destination bar). Admission is $3.00 per visitor. Additional information: www.militaryfamilymuseum.org.
“These are the folks who dreamed together–pulled together to create the Museum of the American Military Family–Wanda Umber, Circe Olson Woessner, Judy O’Reilly, Allen Dale Olson and Jayne Pilley. These photos from the earliest days make me appreciate how special my friends truly are.” Circe Olson Woessner
by Allen Dale Olson, Secretary/Public Affairs, Museum of the American Military Family
It was probably sometime during the fall of 2010 that I first heard my daughter, Circe, mumbling to herself about a medal for military mothers. Her older son had been deployed to Iraq, and like most mothers of those in military combat zones, she was worried about him. Never mind that her husband had been deployed several times, it’s different when the soldier is your child. “We military moms are tough,” she told me, half-jokingly, “we should get some sort of medal.”
It wasn’t really a medal she was thinking about, but rather, something much bigger. “There must be a museum someplace,” she said and launched another search. Having grown up with my wife and me in military communities, she had heard many speeches and read many publications about the importance of family to a military man or woman. “But there are no museums for military moms,” she sighed. “Or for the spouses or kids. There are museums about battles, squadrons, companies, and ships, but not one museum completely dedicated to the people who stand behind those soldiers, sailors, and airmen.”
A long pause. “So, I’ll start one.”
At first, I considered that comment one of those usually harmless unmeant promises, but a few days later when I asked her about it, I thoughtlessly added that it seemed like something I’d like to help her with.
That conversation resulted in a flurry of calls and talks with her friends and work colleagues and she and I meeting with state officials in an effort to find out how one starts a museum and then operates it after it has been founded. On March 23, 2011, under the business name Museum of the American Military Family and Learning Center, we received our tax-exempt status as 501 c 3 and our CRS numbers and documents from the state Public Regulatory Commission and we had a museum, on-line only–with no funding or supporters, but a museum nonetheless.
Ten years later we have three galleries, a special collections library, and a gift shop in a vintage house along Old Route 66 near Albuquerque. We have an operating budget, some volunteers and an enthusiastic and dedicated board of directors. We have permanent exhibits illustrating what it’s like to be a military spouse, or a military kid, and one telling the history of the world-wide school system for military children operated by the Department of Defense. We have a series of revolving exhibits dealing with subjects such as addiction and recovery, military family life overseas, and G. I. humor.
We conduct town hall meetings bringing together the veteran and civilian community for discussions ranging from thoughts on war to helping veterans and their families re-integrate into civilian communities, and we work with the U.S. Immigration Service to host Naturalization ceremonies for military spouses. We have produced documentary films and published a number of anthologies, all first-hand stories about the challenges and achievements of military family life.
From the beginning, we made sure that all our programs, classes, and special events were free to the public. Our board of directors are all volunteers, and we have no paid staff. We have managed all our affairs because of donations and grants.
We have moved three times in our ten years and have now outgrown our current home. Finding a suitable place within our means is our highest priority going forward. We have been blessed with encouragement and cooperation with other museums in the area, and we owe a great deal to the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History for hosting our first-ever exhibition and whose staff taught us much about running a museum.
Founder and Executive Director, Dr. Circe Olson Woessner, says she is grateful for all the volunteer and professional guidance she has received during the past decade and looks forward to a post-pandemic future of still more programs.
For a complete picture of everything about MAMF and its blogs and podcasts, visit www.militaryfamilymuseum.org.
For its 10th anniversary, the museum would like to celebrate by receiving birthday greetings from military families near and far–cards can be sent to its physical address: 546B State Highway 333, Tijeras, NM 87059.
The Museum of the American Military Family& Learning Center has partnered with One Community Auto to promote vehicle* donations that will provide additional funding for the Museum’s mission of preserving military family history.
Your donated vehicle will help ensure that the Museum continues to provide relevant programing and resources to the public virtually and on site.
VEHICLES INCLUDE: cars, RVs, motorcycles, boats, planes, trucks, farm equipment, “totaled” vehicles and trailers.
HOW TO DONATE: Donating a vehicle to help the Museum is easy, and costs you nothing. We accept donations from anywhere in the nation (ALL 50 states). Just call 505- 901-9510 or fill out the online form below. We provide pickup at your location, handle all the title work, and provide you a receipt. It is very simple.
Towing: One Community Auto picks up your vehicle donation, running or not, at your location and convenience.
Easy Paperwork: One Community Auto handles everything: MVD and IRS paperwork is done quickly and efficiently. We handle all title paperwork, so you have nothing to worry about.
Fast Scheduling: Complete the form or call One Community Auto to arrange a convenient time to pick up your vehicle.
Income Tax Deduction: One Community Auto issues you a receipt for the IRS.
It’s a lovely way to help the Museum of the American Military Family & Learning Center
Military Museum in Tijeras, NM Celebrates 10th Anniversary with Call for Stories from Military FamiliesPosted: February 25, 2021
by Erica Asmus-Otero
The Museum of the American Military Family (MAMF), located in Tijeras, New Mexico – is celebrating its 10th anniversary in March 2021.
In celebration of the anniversary, the museum is asking military families, both active and retired, to submit a memory to the MAMF about their military service on a postcard or birthday card.
“We want to connect with families through their stories and cards but cannot have a big celebration out of an abundance of caution with the pandemic,” said museum founder and military family member, Circe Woessner.
Founded in 2011, the MAMF collects, preserves and displays memorabilia and nostalgic stories donated by military families, providing ongoing support through podcasts, books, and other mediums.
“Many Americans don’t understand the sacrifices that the families of service men and women make – how many times their families are uprooted, have to assimilate with new cultures and customs, make and lose friends, and change schools or jobs on a regular basis,” said Woessner. “The MAMF brings to life the stories of these families through their memorabilia, while providing a support network of families who can truly relate with the many challenges and emotions we’ve all experienced.”
Postcard and birthday cards will be accepted throughout the month of March and will be carefully curated in a commemorative 10th anniversary album and posted on the museum’s Facebook page: @MuseumoftheAmericanMilitaryFamily.
Birthday greetings can be sent directly to: 546B State Highway 333 Tijeras, NM 87059.
Sonya L. Smith Unanimously Confirmed as DVS Secretary by Ray Seva
SANTA FE- Sonya L. Smith was unanimously confirmed by the New Mexico Senate today as secretary of the New Mexico Department of Veterans’ Services (DVS).
The vote was 38-0, officially naming her as the fifth DVS secretary—and first African-American to serve as head of the agency. She had been serving on an interim basis since her nomination for the position by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham last October after the retirement of then-Secretary Judy Griego.
Secretary Smith comes to DVS from the New Mexico Department of Health, where she served as a special projects coordinator–specifically helping guide the efforts of the agency’s COVID-19 testing team. Prior to that, she served as director of compliance at Southwest Care Center in Santa Fe, and before that, as director of primary care at the University of New Mexico Medical Group.
As a medic with the United States Air Force Reserve, Secretary Smith was activated to serve in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Upon receiving her honorable discharge, she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Services Management from Norfolk State University in her hometown of Norfolk, VA, and a Master’s Degree in Health Care Compliance from Argosy University.
During the senate floor confirmation vote, senators from both sides of the aisle were quick to praise the nomination, citing Secretary-Designate Smith’s strong background.
“I rise in strong support of Secretary-Designate Smit,” said Senate Majority Floor Leader Peter Wirth (D-Santa Fe). “She has the skill-set that is really important for this job.” She also said something that really resonates with me—that every day is Veterans Day to her. My door will always be open to her for any help.”
“I stand here in strong support of Secretary Sonya Smith,” said Senator, Senate Minority Leader, and U.S. Navy veteran Greg Baca (R-Belen). “She has a kindness and the spirit to lead the department of veterans services. I’m happy to know that they will be under her guidance, and I look forward to working with her to serve our state’s veterans.”
In her preliminary virtual Senate Rules Confirmation hearing on February 12, Secretary Smith testified her three immediate goals as DVS secretary would be raising awareness for the prevention of veteran suicide, helping end veteran homelessness, and getting veterans registered for the COVID-19 vaccine.
“I’m proud to be the first African-American to lead the New Mexico Department of Veterans Servcies,” she testified via Zoom. “Never did I ever imagine that when I came to New Mexico seven years ago that I would have the opportunity to serve as secretary of this agency. But I think back to what my grandmother always told me when I was growing up: ‘What’s for you…is for you.’ And she was always right. I really look forward to helping our veterans and their families.”
By W. Umber
Ask your financial advisor about a Donor Advised Fund (DAF) also known as a Charitable Giving Fund. These accounts are setup through the financial services firm of your choice (Fidelity, Ameriprise, USAA, etc.). You can fund this account with cash, stock, or other assets such as IRA minimum distributions, and you recommend an investment strategy once the assets are irrevocably transferred to the DAF. The tax deduction for the charitable donation is taken at the time the assets are transferred into the DAF. Assets can continue to grow in value (tax free) depending on the investments you choose. There may be other tax benefits depending on your situation.
Once the DAF is funded, you recommend “grants” or donations to your charity. You can give anonymously, in memory of someone, or in support of specific projects. The grant is made directly to the charity—no credit cards, checks, or websites to sign up for! You will have a permanent record of the gifts you have made through the fund.
Essentially, this is like having a mini-foundation that you fund and control. Check with your financial advisor to see if this is a good strategy for you, and don’t forget that you can donate to the Museum of the American Military Family through your Donor Advised Fund!
Cherie Avila, Museum Storyteller
I grew up in a military family. Both of my older brothers attended a military school for part of their schooling. Upon graduation, all three of us kids served in the military. Although I only served for four years, both of my brothers retired from the military. Most of my high school years were in Korea. When I was a senior year in high school, my dad was transferred stateside. I spent my senior year in Maryland longing to be back with my friends in Korea. When it was time for college, I applied to one university. The one university that I knew a friend from Korea was attending. When I left the Army and chose the civilian career of a teacher, I did not initially realize the uniqueness of being an Army Brat. Over the years I have told friends about being raised in a military family, moving every few years, living in different countries and many states, and attending school in Korea. I couldn’t tell if my civilian friends didn’t believe me, or my story was just so different from their experience that they couldn’t relate. Either way, I often thought of my other “brat” friends and how I would like to reconnect with them.
As my own children started school and I was considering which schools they would attend, I began to think of my own school experience and what has happened to my classmates from Korea. I knew very little about social media at the time and had no idea where to begin to find them. One day I noticed that the public library was going to be showing the documentary, Brats: Our Journey Home. I went to the library, sat in a dark room with a handful of others, and the documentary began. It was about ten minutes into the documentary that I started bawling. I was crying and was not sure why this film was having such an emotional impact on me. At one point in the documentary, I saw the sign in front of my old high school in Korea, I realized why I was so moved. I said to myself, “Oh my gosh! It was real.” It existed. This school that I had been talking about for 30 years actually existed. My memories were real. The documentary validated my experience and my memories of my experience.
As members of military families, we are in a subculture of America that few others experience. Living on a military base is similar to a small town where everybody knows everybody, but unlike a small town, we rarely get the opportunity to go “home.” What does home even mean to military kids? For the few of us that do get the opportunity to return to where we attended school, all the people are different, so it is not the same. There may be some buildings that are recognizable, but it is never the same, and to me does not feel like “home”. Soon after I saw the documentary, a friend asked me to join Facebook to see a photo of her new puppies. Once I joined Facebook, I began searching for friends from my high school in Korea. Once we connected, and began sharing photos and stories, it was if no time had passed. I felt more at home, than I had in a long time. In fact, one friend from high school and I were living in the same town for six years and had no idea the other was living there.
I believe that it is through our stories that we make connections with other members of military families, often finding similarities with which we can relate. Although we may share some similar experiences, there is no one stereotypical military family. Being a part of a military family, we all have very different stories, but once we share our stories we can begin to relate, to make connections, and perhaps find that sense of home you may be longing for. I believe it is through storytelling that we find the common thread that binds us together. The Museum of American Military Families can be that venue for thread-finding, but it does require you to be willing to share your story. I ask you to be brave and share a story from your life in a military family. You can start by visiting the website at https://militaryfamilymuseum.org/ or its Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/MuseumoftheAmericanMilitaryFamily. Find a blog or podcast that reminds you of an event or episode you would be willing to share. Together, let’s make 2021 the year of connections and start by telling your story.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
New Mexico families can support the Museum of the American Military Family when they shop at Smith’sPosted: January 13, 2021
The Kroger Co. Family of Stores is committed to bringing hope and help to local neighborhoods and organizations through their Inspiring Donations program. New Mexico’s Smith’s Food & Drug participates to give customers the opportunity to donate to local causes.
When you to link your Rewards card to the Museum of the American Military Family (Organization IA946), Smith’s Food & Drug donates .5% of every eligible purchase. The more you shop, the more money the museum will earn!
1. Create a digital account.
A digital account is needed to participate in Smith’s Inspiring Donations. If you already have a digital account, simply link your Shopper’s Card to your account so that all transactions apply toward the organization you choose.
2. Link your Card to an organization. The Museum of the American Military Family is IA946
Select the organization that you wish to support. Here’s how:
- Sign in to your digital account.
- Search for your organization. (The museum is IA946)
- Enter the name or organization number.
- Select the Museum of the American Military Family from the list and click “Save”.
- Your choice will also display in the Smith’s Inspiring Donations section of your account. If you need to review or revisit your organization, you can always do so under your Account details.
3. The museum earns. (Thank you!)
Note, if you are a customer, make sure you have a preferred store selected to view participating organizations. Any transactions moving forward using the Shopper’s Card number associated with your digital account will be applied to the program, at no added cost to you. This is a very easy way to support the Museum of the American Military Family.