By Celeste Bradshaw
To me, the NVMM is a bright space full of proud service, wonderful families, and love of community/country. It’s my job to bring a positive energy to greeting the guests and setting the tone for them to have a moving and inspirational experience here. How I came to be here started almost 30 years ago, and I’ve loved the journey.
My husband, Commander Matthew Bradshaw, spent 22 years in the United States Navy, which means I spent 22 years as a Navy spouse. We met at Ohio State University; he was studying Aviation and I was in Journalism. He went on to use his degree as a helicopter pilot, I used mine to raise 3 boys and be a stay-at-home mom. We moved 14 times in 19 years, which meant I put everything into being a military spouse instead of having my own career. The combination of our frequent moves and my husband’s four deployments abroad left me isolated away from family and often alone. But I wasn’t alone. There’s a strong connection between military families to take care of each other. I always enjoyed and fully appreciated everything the military life had to offer. My husband’s last duty station was the Naval ROTC at Ohio State University, which brought us back to our home state of Ohio. After living 20 years around Navy Bases, landlocked Columbus felt a little lonely to me. We had our families around us but lacked the military connection I had come to rely on most of my adult life. The National Veterans Memorial and Museum is a local way for me to connect with the military community that I miss so much.
The visitors coming to NVMM give me a reason to smile every day. That military connection I was missing is fulfilled here at NVMM. Whether a guest is a Veteran who has experienced military life, or a civilian trying to understand the Veteran experience, each guest brings with them personal stories to share. The best part of my workday is connecting with our visitors. I get to thank them for their service and thank their families for their contributions. From WWII Veterans who endured the Battle of the Bulge to Gulf War Veterans who were present when they pulled down the statue of Saddam Hussein, I’ve met so many people who were part of history. Just walking through our hallways is a history lesson. We are emersed in images of Veterans, memorials, and landmarks that commemorate Veteran accomplishments. And if you are willing to listen, there is nothing like hearing first-person accounts of what happened behind the scenes by the men and women who had boots on the ground. I treasure these interactions. I know how fortunate I am to be a part of what we do here, and I am blessed to be where I am.
Helping Visitor Services, we have a wonderful staff of volunteers many of whom have served in the military. Everyone working here shares an appreciation for our military and love for our country’s Veterans. I believe the warmth and camaraderie between the museum’s staff and volunteers is felt by our visitors and is reflected in the NVMM’s atmosphere. I look forward to getting out of the house and spending time with my colleagues, because to me we are more than coworkers; we are a family.
After over 20 years of supporting my husband in his military career, I consider myself extremely lucky to work at the National Veterans Memorial and Museum. It’s such a satisfying way to apply my skills (history, journalism, communication). I have found a place where my love of our country’s military community has an outlet and coming to work every day is a joy. It takes a bit of serendipity to find yourself a position that brings many aspects of your life together, and it’s always, always rewarding.
Celeste Bradshaw is a military wife and mother. She and her family have spent 22 years navigating her husband’s four deployments and military service, and are now settled in Columbus, Ohio where their three boys attend school. Celeste’s experiences with military life and camaraderie eventually led her to a career at the National Veterans Memorial and Museum where she is a valuable part of the Visitor Services team, making everyone’s experience the best that it can be upon entering the museum.