|Berkshire Museum Offers Troops & Families Free Admission|
|By Joe Durwin, Pittsfield Correspondent|
11:32PM / Monday, May 28, 2012
|Stephanie Buzzella and her children are welcomed to the Berkshire Museum by director Van Shields and state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier.|
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The doors of the Berkshire Museum were open on a Memorial Day for the first time in years as it welcomed Army Spc. Rodney Buzzella and his family to celebrate its participation in the Blue Star Museums program
Spc. Rodney 'Bustin' Buzzella served with National Guard in Afghanistan. He's helping the Berkshire Museum advertise its participation in a national program that offers free admission to active duty servicemen and their families.
The program offers free admission to active military members and their families throughout the summer.
Blue Star Museums is a 3-year-old collaborative effort of the National Endowment of the Arts, the nonprofit Blue Star Families and the Department of Defense working with museums around the country to be able to provide free admission for active-duty military members and their families.
The program runs from this Memorial Day, May 28, through Labor Day, Sept. 3.
Since its inception, the Blue Star Museums program has grown exponentially, and this year includes more than 1,500 art, history, science museums, nature centers and children's museums.
Berkshire Museum Executive Director Van Shields said that as a former member of the military himself, he immediately recognized the worthiness of instituting the program in Pittsfield.
"Anything we can do to highlight the fact that we have these people all around us, fighting these wars for us, is very important," said Shields, who took over leadership of the museum in September. "We're not always as aware of that sacrifice as we should be."
Rodney "Bustin" Buzzella, along with his wife, Stephanie, and three children, were welcomed inside by Shields and state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier — that is, after his two young boys got a chance to climb around a bit on Wally, the museum's replica stegosaurus and informal mascot (Wally will turn 15 this October). The museum also provided a gift bag of educational toys from its gift shop area.
"[Massachusetts] is first in the nation in terms of taking care of its veterans," said Farley-Bouvier. She pointed to the Valor Act, passed earlier this month by the state House of Representatives, which seeks to improve support and services for veterans.
Buzzella deployed to Afghanistan with Alpha Company, 181st Infantry Battalion, Massachusetts Army National Guard in August 2010 in support Operation Enduring Freedom. Since returning home at the end of July 2011, he has filled his time with volunteer work while looking for employment as a police officer in Berkshire County. He is also a probationary member of the Dalton Volunteer Fire Department and coaches a T-ball team through the YMCA.
The Buzzella children were given goodies from the museum's gift shop. The museum opened Monday just for the Buzzellas.
Buzzella will assist as the face of the program for Berkshire County in order to let servicemen and -women know this resource exists, and will even be featured on a billboard to debut in Pittsfield soon.
"We come here all the time, anyway, so this is great," said Stephanie Buzzella.
The free admission program is available to active-duty military and their family members (military ID holder and up to five family members). Active duty military include Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, active duty National Guard and active reservists from all branches of service. Free admission may not apply to certain special events or activities, so calling ahead is encouraged.
For more information, visit the Berkshire Museum or Blue Star Museums to learn more about the national program.