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"Monuments Men" opening eyes on current war time archaeology

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: "Monuments Men" opening eyes on current war time archaeology
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Throughout history, part of helping a war-torn nation recover has been helping it see a future. In Afghanistan there's hope tourism can one day be an economic engine. One draw would be preserving its history. The new World War II movie 'Monuments Men' is opening some eyes to what both soldiers and civilians are trying to do in the Middle East today. As our Brian Dwyer reports, Fort Drum is helping lead the way.

FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- It's work that normally doesn't get this kind of recognition. That's why Dr. Laurie Rush, an archaeologist on Fort Drum, is thrilled that the new movie 'Monuments Men,' a team that sets out to save art and artifacts during World War II, is showing people the importance.

"It's been extremely exciting to see the whole concept coming to the big screen. It's even more exciting to begin to get a sense of the public response. It really is overwhelmingly positive. People believe in saving cultural property," Rush said.

The belief that's now being seen in the now war-torn Middle East, a place Rush has visited numerous times. She says helping natives, like the Afghans, save pieces of Afghanistan's history, can help them see their future.

"Not only do they maintain their ties with the glory of their ancient heritage, but they also have the hope for future tourism and future visitors, archaeologists returning. So it becomes a piece of their economy as well," Rush said.

To get on that track, Rush and her staff can't do it alone. While on Drum, when she's not uncovering some of the post's history, she's training soldiers on what to look for and how to help the Afghans save their past. They are potential relationships that can lead to trust.

"Soldiers of varying ranks have written to me and talked about the importance of finding that common ground. It becomes a value that Americans and members of the host nation communities share," Rush said.

Something so important, Rush came up with a cool, convenient way to keep everything fresh in a soldier's mind. She created three special decks of playing cards that are easy for soldiers to carry and can be used a lot when they have down time.

"The diamonds are about artifacts. The clubs are about cultural preservation. The hearts are about forming relationships with a host nation. The spades are about being careful where you dig," Rush said of the images on the cards.

Rush says that area is still a war zone and you wouldn't believe what enemy forces are capable of, including using history as bait.

Rush says Fort Drum is the only installation she knows of that allows soldiers to train in a designated archaeological site.

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