Fort Riley, Kansas



1st Infantry Division’s history on display

By Maria Childs | 1ST INF. DIV. POST | September 01, 2017

MANHATTAN – “Happy Birthday Big Red One!” Rob­ert Smith, the Fort Riley mu­seum director, proclaimed as clapping ensued inside the new exhibit at the Flint Hills Dis­covery Center Aug. 25. Smith and many community leaders gathered for a ribbon cutting ceremony the night before the exhibit opened to the public Aug. 26.

     The exhibit, called “Duty First: 100 Years of the Big Red One” allows visitors to follow five Soldiers who served in the 1st Inf. Div. through their per­sonal stories and experiences. Smith said the idea of the ex­hibit is so visitors can see his­tory through the eyes of the Soldier.

     Smith’s team at Fort Riley is not the only one that contrib­uted to making this happen. Staff from the Flint Hills Dis­covery Center, Center of Mili­tary History and the Fort Riley Museum Complex worked for two years to accomplish this mission.

     “They are the heart and soul of this exhibit,” Smith said as he acknowledged those in attendance who helped con­struct the exhibit.

     “This exhibit took two years to develop and I must say that it was worth every moment,” Smith said. “There were some speed bumps in the road, but once you get upstairs you will all agree it was worth the time and effort.”

      Manhattan Mayor Usha Reddi said great detail went into the exhibit noting when she stopped by the night before the ribbon cutting they were replacing a toothbrush with the real artifact.

     “People who have been through these wars know the authenticity of it,” she said.

      She said the Manhattan community supports more than 12,000 Soldiers and their families. She added when they are stationed at Fort Riley and live here, they become part of the Manhattan community and should be treated as such.

     “They live here and they are part of our community, we owe a huge debt to them,” she said. “When you see the exhibit, you’re going to see some heart wrenching stories and I hope it brings us back to a place where we are able to have the quality of life we do and the things we take for granted and the men and women who have sacri­ficed their lives for it.”

     Brig. Gen. William Turner, 1st Inf. Div. and Fort Riley act­ing senior commander, made the final remarks before the ribbon was cut. He thanked ev­eryone for their attendance and said there was no better way to commemorate the 100th birthday of the Big Red One.

     “Big Red One Soldiers like you and I have been defending this great nation since 1917, and to add a personal touch to this I’d like to share with you my first introduction to Fort Riley and the 1st Infantry Di­vision came in 1980 when my next eldest brother came here on assignment,” he said.

      Turner visited Fort Riley as a high school junior and then went on to serve in the Army and was stationed here during the 75th birthday of the 1st Inf. Div.

     “It was a tremendous ex­perience to be part of it then and I’m sure never in my right mind did I think I would come back here 25 years later and be part of the 100th year anniver­sary,” he said with a laugh.

     Turner said throughout history many things have changed, but he acknowledged many things also remained the same.

     “It’s simply amazing to think that we wear the same patch that so many who have fought and died in defense of freedom and democracy,” he said, “So what do we have in common? What hasn’t changed? What has persisted throughout the years is the deployments, homecomings, reunions, the mission after mission that had been accomplished, memorials, ceremonies and dedications like the one we are part of today. The common thread through these last 100 years has been the great support of our communities.”

     The exhibit not only fea­tures history, but also has a play area called Camp Fun­ston, where children are en­couraged to participate in an obstacle course and make their own Big Red One patch. The exhibit will be on display until Jan. 14, 2018. For more infor­mation about the exhibit, visit