Coming Soon!
"The Draft" Newsletter Vol. 2, The Big Announcement
General Al Gray, USMC (Ret) and SgtMaj
Joe Houle, USMC (Ret) - 16 May 2016
North Carolina Dedicates
$26 Million for Construction of
Carolina Museum of the Marine and
Al Gray Civic Institute
Jacksonville, NC -  Marines are known for ingenuity, perseverance and fighting to the finish. Eastern North Carolina is seeing the fruits of its determined Marine veterans and retirees as plans to break ground on a 40,000 square foot museum and institute become a reality. 
Senator Harry Brown (retired) and Senator Mike Lazzara took up the cause with Lazzara introducing Senate Bill 70 in 2021. Representative George Cleveland, joined by Representative Pat McElraft and Representative Phil Shepard, filed House Bill 60
“Literally hundreds of people over the years and from all over the country have stayed the course to see this project through,” said BGen Dick Vercauteren, USMC (Ret). Vercauteren, chair of the board for Carolina Museum of the Marine and Al Gray Civic Institute, gives special credit to Operations Director, SgtMaj Joe Houle, USMC (Ret). “This project, no matter who is talking about it, is so strongly associated with Joe Houle,” he said. Houle has worked with the organization since its inception in 1999, weaving together a vast network of support among the region’s nonprofits including those serving our nation’s veterans.
“We are excited to begin construction on the museum,” Houle said. “Creating an enduring legacy for Carolina Marines and Sailors and the communities supporting us is an honor for all involved.” Houle credits MajGen Ray Smith, USMC (Ret) and his wife, Colleen, with the idea of building a museum dedicated to Carolina Marines and Sailors and Senator Mike Lazzara for his unswerving dedication to the mission. But he credits Keith and Ginger Byrd and Byrd Family Foundation for helping the organization stay the course throughout the COVID pandemic and its tremendous impact on nonprofits. “Keith and Ginger are true heroes in this story,” Houle said. “They are the embodiment of Semper Fidelis.”  
The Museum’s educational programs have been under development since 2017 when General Al Gray, USMC (Ret) – and the USMC’s 29th Commandant – originated the idea of the Civic Institute. By acclamation, the Board of Directors has now named the Institute after its founder. Al Gray Civic Institute at Carolina Museum of the Marine already offers classes in critical thinking skills, political and economic thought, American civics, discerning facts from rhetoric, and leadership. Classes are offered on location (schools, businesses, civic groups) and online. With construction of the Museum and Institute, classes will be offered on site in Jacksonville, NC as well.
“We have an overarching opportunity to provide a forward-thinking museum and institute designed to ensure that the contributions of our Carolina Marines and Sailors to our nation’s freedom are remembered, to teach young and old alike the civic virtue in understanding what made our great Nation a leader of the free world and to help prepare our young people to lead, to follow, and to cope with future challenges,” said General Al Gray, USMC (Ret), member of the Board of Directors Executive Committee. Hear General Gray talk about the Civic Institute here.

The Museum will showcase Marines and Sailors whose service to the nation exemplifies civic commitment in action. The many accomplishments and innovations of Carolina Marines and Sailors and the enduring contributions of their host communities will be highlighted in a state of the art facility. The facility will also provide an exciting new multipurpose venue for public and private events including military balls, promotion and retirement ceremonies, weddings, and civic events as well as classes, seminars, conferences, and symposia.
“We are thankful to so many individuals for this phase of the project,” said Ashley Danielson, executive director. “To say that we want to celebrate our community with our community would be an understatement.”
Danielson stated that the organization is also beginning the search for a chief executive officer who will oversee the construction as well as the development of immersive exhibits and educational programs. The organization has appointed a search committee, led by Board of Directors Vice Chair Mark Cramer, JD. For more information about the CEO position, please contact Mr. Cramer at
 MissionCarolina Museum of the Marine and Al Gray Civic Institute will honor the legacy of Carolina Marines and Sailors, sustain the ideals that are the foundation of our nation, and inspire principled, committed citizens.  
Click on the Eagle, Globe and Anchor
for our project update.

2020-2021 Board of Directors

Executive Committee
BGen Dick Vercauteren, USMC (Ret) - Chairman
Mr. Mark Cramer, JD - Vice Chairman
CAPT Pat Alford, USN (Ret) - Treasurer
Col Joe Atkins, USAF (Ret) - Secretary
Col John B. Sollis, USMC (Ret) - Immediate Past Chairman
General Al Gray, USMC (Ret), 29th Commandant - At-Large Member
LtGen Gary S. McKissock, USMC (Ret) - At-Large Member

Mr. Terry Branton
Mr. Tom DeSanctis
MyGySgt Osceola Elliss, USMC (Ret)
Col Chuck Geiger, USMC (Ret)
Col Bruce Gombar, USMC (Ret)
LtCol Lynn "Kim" Kimball, USMC (Ret)
CWO4 Richard McIntosh, USMC (Ret)
CWO5 Lisa Potts, USMC (Ret)
Col Grant Sparks, USMC (Ret)
GySgt Forest Spencer, USMC (Ret)


Ashley Danielson, Executive Director
SgtMaj Joe Houle, Operations Director
Richard Koeckert, Accounting Manager