May 24, 2013 at 11:58 AM ET
Active duty military personnel and their families now have one more tradition to add to the Memorial Day holiday weekend: free admission at more than 2,000 arts, science and history museums around the country.
The patriotic perk comes courtesy of the "Blue Star Museums" program and includes complimentary entrance to sites in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and American Samoa for all active duty, National Guard and Reserve military personnel and their families from Memorial Day right through Labor Day. The Blue Star Museums program is a partnership between Blue Star Families, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Department of Defense, MetLife Foundation and participating museums.
“Summer is moving season for a lot of military families and this not only provides a free way for them to get to know their new towns while they’re acclimating to their new stations, it’s a way for communities to give back to active duty military members,” said AnnaMaria White, spokeswoman for Blue Star Families, a non-profit organization offering support programs for military families.
Blue Star Museums kicks off its fourth season this weekend with Butte, Montana's World Museum of Mining and 450 other new museums on the roster in addition to museums such as Seattle’s Museum of Flight, which has been participating since the program’s inception.
Regular admission to the Museum of Flight is $18 for adults and $10 for kids 5 to 17 years of age, but “we’re happy to be offer free admission as part of this summer program because we’re right up the road from Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Tacoma,” said museum spokesperson Ted Huetter.
The Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY is also a charter member of the Blue Star Museums program. “We participate because it feels like a good way to give back,” CMOG spokesperson Yvette Sterbenk told NBC News. “We are just a few hours drive from major military bases – most notably Ft. Drum in upstate NY – and it's a great opportunity to invite those families to experience the museum.”
According to a Department of Defense demographics report, there are over 2.2 million active, National Guard and Reserve service members, with over 3.1 million family members. That means more than 5.3 million people might be able to take advantage of this program.
“Museum admission prices for a family can really add up, so it helps that the program provides free admission for the active military person and up to five family members each visit,” said White.
The program means more than free admission to Rheanna Bernard. Her husband is in the Air Force and they have three children under six years old. “Whenever we go somewhere we look on the list of participating museums to help us plan the trip,” said Bernard. “It just really means a lot to us that they go out of their way to acknowledge us and say than-you.”
Find more by Harriet Baskas on StuckatTheAirport.com and follow her on Twitter at @hbaskas.