About Us

Meet the Marine. Be inspired!


The mission of Carolina Museum of the Marine is to honor the legacy of Carolina Marines and Sailors and to inspire future generations.

Our History

Originally named Marine Corps Museum of the Carolinas, the organization was founded by MajGen Ray Smith, USMC (Ret) who was the commanding general for Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune from 1997 to 1999. MajGen Smith and his wife, Colleen, wanted to preserve the storied legacy of Carolina Marines and Sailors so they contacted Sergeant Major Joe Houle just before his own retirement. “We wanted someone who understands the Carolina MAGTF,” MajGen Smith said. “And someone who would work tirelessly to make the vision of an enduring tribute a reality,” he added.

Now as Director of Operations and Artifacts, Houle will work with the organization’s first CEO, BGen Kevin Stewart, USMC (Ret), as the organization moves into Phase II:  Construction of the 25,000 square foot Museum and Al Gray Marine Leadership Forum.

“Over the years, we have been collecting artifacts for the museum’s exhibits,” Houle said. “Board members CWO5 Lisa Potts, USMC (Ret), and SgtMaj Ray Mackey, USMC (Ret), have worked tirelessly with the organization’s historian, LtCol Lynn “Kim” Kimball, USMC (Ret), and museum archivist and volunteer Frances Hayden to ensure best practices in the accession and care of the artifacts,” he added.


A rendering of Carolina Museum of the Marine. The museum will honor the legacy of Carolina Marines and Sailors and will highlight their accomplishments and innovations.

Late in 2021, the state of North Carolina awarded $26 million to the organization for the construction of the 25,000-square-foot facility. Local government entities are joining private donors to ensure that the organization has operating capital to oversee and run the project during construction and after its doors open. “We are excited to see this organization moving from grassroots to the national stage,” said Ashley Danielson, Vice President of Development. “We have numerous faithful supporters to which we owe a debt of gratitude.”

“Plans for Phase 2, the construction of the 25,000-square-foot Museum are now underway,” CEO, BGen Kevin Stewart, USMC (Ret) said, adding that a Marine veteran legislator was instrumental in backing the project. “We thank dedicated ​North Carolina Senators  Harry Brown and Mike Lazzara and their success in obtaining a $26 million construction grant this year,” he continued.  Lazzara was joined in his efforts by North Carolina State Representatives George Cleveland, Pat McElfraft and Phil Shepard. “We are excited to move forward with this project,” said CEO, BGen Kevin Stewart, USMC (Ret), “We will show quite clearly, with our immersive exhibits, the honor, courage, and commitment of Carolina Marines and Sailors.” 

The museum will be located at Lejeune Memorial Gardens near Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune and is anticipated to be a major attraction for the 138,000 Marines, Sailors, and Coast Guardsmen serving in the area, as well as their families and friends. Houle also expects numerous military and history aficionados, as well as tourists to the state’s coastline to visit the museum.

The museum will highlight the many accomplishments and innovations of Carolina Marines and Sailors and the enduring contributions of their host communities. It will also provide a unique and inspiring new venue for public and private events.

Al Gray Marine Leadership Forum

As we transition to the physical construction of the museum, we will integrate our educational programs within the mission of Carolina Museum of the Marine (CMOTM) as one entity. We will teach the core values, strategic thinking skills, and leadership traits and principles that are emblematic of the Marine Corps. CMOTM’s overarching educational mission is to use the Marine example to inspire future generations.

Since 1775, the United States Marine Corps has been integral to the security of our country, and integral to the mission of the Corps are the core values of honor, courage, and commitment. The histories of the Marine Corps and of the United States Navy are graced with a wealth of examples of these core values in action. This history is worthy of remembrance and respect.

The three most important things the Marine Corps does for the Nation are make Marines, win battles, and return quality citizens. CMOTM is dedicated to remembering and honoring the many achievements of Carolina Marines and Sailors, and to bringing those achievements to the American public. You will meet a Marine and be inspired.

General Gray is especially interested in teaching critical thinking which he defines as the study and analysis of problems, issues, and facts to develop and form a sound judgment. “It is self-directed, self-disciplined, self-motivated, and self-corrected thinking,” he said.