Here’s how the National Portrait Gallery is celebrating military families
(Photo: Wikipedia)

Military families and the larger Washington, D.C. community are invited to participate in Heroes Big and Small, an all-day military appreciation program on August 26 held at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Portrait Gallery. The effort is a collaboration between the National Portrait Gallery and Blue Star Families and is the first of its kind for the museum.

The National Portrait Gallery and Blue Star Families collaborated on a smaller event last year for military families, but this year decided to expand. Beth Evans, Youth and Family Programs Coordinator for the National Portrait Gallery, worked with Amse Heck, Washington, D.C. Chapter Director for Blue Star Families, to make the program come to life this year. Evans notes that the timing is perfect as the museum currently has an installation featuring portraits of service members entitled “The Face of Battle: Americans At War, 9/11 to Now.”

Emphasizing both the sacrifices military families make and the importance of community, the day will happen in two parts. Starting at 11 AM, the National Portrait Gallery will host a private concert for Blue Star Families attendees. By and By, a popular local bluegrass band will perform. At 11:30 AM, the day’s programming will open for the rest of the community regardless of military affiliation, and will include additional concerts by By and By, art activities, and tours of Hall of Presidents with historian David C. Ward.

Outside of the 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the National Portrait Gallery hosts the only complete collection of presidential portraits. “Most people remember the Hall of Presidents when they first go [into the museum], so I’m really excited for all of the new military families in the area to experience that,” Heck says.

Both Heck and Evans emphasize that the day is meant to help build bridges. “I’m overwhelmed by how generous they’re being,” Heck, an Air Force spouse, says of the National Portrait Gallery. “I love that we get to. . . explore strength through community.”

The sister of a Green Beret, Evans is emphatic about the importance of celebrating the whole military family, saying that the day was one to explore “the idea of heroes, American heroes, and how everyone can be a hero in their own way.”

Military families who wish to participate in the morning’s event can reserve their space here. Everyone is welcome to participate in the day between 11:30 AM and 3 PM. Most activities will be held in the National Portrait Gallery’s Robert and Arlene Kogod Courtyard.

By J.G. Noll