An inspiring ceremony kicked off construction on the National Medal of Honor Museum, in Arlington, Texas, which will showcase the stories of the 3,530 American servicemembers who have received the highest military decoration for valor in combat.
“The groundbreaking ceremony will be the culmination of a tremendous amount of amazing work and the beginning of an exciting new phase. We are one step closer to making a museum for all Americans to learn from the Medal of Honor a reality,” said Chris Cassidy, president and CEO of the National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation, ahead of the March 25 groundbreaking.
The foundation consulted the 66 living Medal of Honor recipients to help plan the museum. Sixteen of them were present at the groundbreaking ceremony — which, appropriately, took place on National Medal of Honor Day — representing those who served during World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.
What to expect
At 35,000 square feet, the building, expected to open in late 2024, will have enough room to celebrate every branch of the military through all generations of service. The space will be divided into 13 different galleries that will feature visuals and other objects and mementos to tell the stories of the medal recipients.
“We’ll certainly have the medals themselves, but those don’t tell the whole story,” said Cassidy.
One recipient, Joe Foss, went on to become the first commissioner of the American Football League, the predecessor to the AFC in the National Football League. To help tell his post-service story, the museum will display a football he signed in the 1960s.
Although much of the space is still in development, visitors will be able to learn about each veteran before, during and after their service through interactive experiences.
“We’re hoping that the museum visitors will be inspired by how extraordinarily ordinary some of these recipients are in their post [military] life,” said Cassidy. He hopes people will be inspired to live a better life and incorporate the courage, sacrifice and patriotism of the medal’s recipients into their own daily lives.
Also housed in the museum will be the National Medal of Honor Leadership and Education Center, which will offer programs, primarily for those in grade school.
“The recipients themselves think the museum is a great idea. But what they’re very passionate about is having an avenue to help teach people, particularly children, about the core values associated with the Medal of Honor — courage, sacrifice, patriotism and commitment,” said Cassidy.
Medal of Honor memorial coming to D.C.
In December 2021, President Joe Biden signed legislation authorizing the creation of a Medal of Honor memorial in downtown Washington, D.C.
Currently, three plots of land near the Lincoln Memorial are being considered for the memorial. After a location is selected, which should happen by the end of the year, a competition will be launched to solicit designs for the memorial. Ultimately, one design will be selected and fine-tuned for construction.
Both the museum in Texas and the monument in Washington are supported entirely by private donations. So far $156 million has been raised, though donations are still being accepted.
Aaron Kassraie writes about issues important to military veterans and their families for AARP. He also serves as a general assignment reporter. Kassraie previously covered U.S. foreign policy as a correspondent for the Kuwait News Agency’s Washington bureau and worked in news gathering for USA Today and Al Jazeera English.