Camp Mabry will host an exhibit commemorating Texas Army and Air National Guard personnel who were among the first to be called into combat in the wake of the 2001 terror attacks. “9-11 and Beyond: The Texas National Guard and the War on Terror” opens next Saturday, the day before the 10-year anniversary of the attacks.
"One of the things that you always want to try and do when you're putting together an exhibit, especially for a military museum, is to not focus solely on big things like tactics, weaponry, technology," said Jeff Hunt, director of the Texas Military Forces Museum at Camp Mabry. "That's part of our story and we're going to tell that story. But a lot of people will come in looking for the human connection. They're going to want to know about the soldiers and the air men and what they experienced and what they felt and what they did and what they went through."
A Texas Air National Guard F-16 fighter jet that saw action during Operation Iraqi Freedom will be on display. The fighter jet is sleek and shined-up. On its wing, written in large black letters: A proud "Don't Mess With Texas."
Hunt said that perhaps the most moving piece of the exhibit is a broken window from a humvee. It was hit by an improvised explosive device in Iraq in 2004. Lodged firmly into the thick, bullet-proof window is a piece of shrapnel surrounded by a tight web of fractured glass. The window is a tribute to Tomas Garces, the first Texas National Guardsman killed in combat since World War II. He was in the humvee when it was ambushed.
Over 23,000 members of the Texas Army and Air National Guard have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in since 9-11, Hunt told KUT News, more troops than from any other state.
"Of course, one of the features of war is that people are killed and wounded. And when you lose somebody, when a force loses somebody, when a unit loses somebody, that's got an impact that never really goes away," he added. "We want people to understand that there's a price that the Texas Guard has paid for its participation in the war against terrorism."
"9-11 and Beyond: The Texas National Guard and the War on Terror" will be a permanent exhibit at Camp Mabry's Texas Military Forces Museum. The museum is open to the public Wednesday through Sunday from 10 am-4 pm. Adults must show a valid photo ID such as a driver's license to enter Camp Mabry.