Groundbreaking held for Carolina Museum of the Marine in Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WITN) – Groundbreaking ceremonies were held Friday in Jacksonville for a new museum 24 years in the making to honor past, present, and future Marines.

Hundreds of Veterans and active-duty Marines from across the country arrived at the Lejeune Memorial Gardens for the groundbreaking.

The event included the national anthem, Anchors Aweigh, and The Marines’ Hymn performed by Marines along with speeches by Jacksonville Mayor Sammy Phillips, NC State Senator Michael Lazzara, Brigadier General Aldolfo Garcia, and special guests.

The long-talked-about project hit a major milestone as community members, Marines, and Veterans marked the beginning of construction on the museum set to honor Marines and Sailors.

Kevin Stewart, a retired Brigadier General and CEO of the museum says none of this would have been possible without the Jacksonville community and Marines who served.

“So, this museum must be a living tribute to all Carolina Marines and Sailors. In closing, I extend my heartfelt gratitude to all of those who contributed to this endeavor: the donors, the board members, the staff, the planners, the builders, and the dreamers. We’re building a world-class museum. Semper Fi,” said Kevin Stewart during his speech.

The museum’s mission is to educate, honor, and inspire as stated on their website and during the ceremony.

The organization that established the museum was founded by Major General Ray Smith, who served as the Commanding General for Camp Lejeune between 1997 to 1999.

Smith and his wife wanted to preserve the heritage of Carolina Marines and sailors who served and are currently serving. They connected with Sergeant Major Joseph Houle, who is now retired and acting as the Director of Operations and Artifacts.

Houle says that visitors will be left in awe when they come and visit.

“They’re going to be able to walk into the museum and not only get a history of the Carolina Museum but leadership. What makes a Marine a Marine,” said retired Sergeant Major Joseph Houle.

The Carolina Museum of the Marine is currently in phase two of development. It will also be over 25,000 square feet costing 30 million dollars. The museum is set to open in 2026.

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