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Plans Unveiled for Vietnam Veterans Memorial Center

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 23, 2007 – At a Capitol Hill news conference yesterday, exhibition designer Ralph Appelbaum provided a first glimpse of the exhibits planned for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Center, an underground facility slated for the National Mall near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

“The center will be a place that reveals the human dimension of the war and honors the value of service and the bonds of loyalty and friendship,” Appelbaum said. “It will allow a new generation of visitors to better understand the human experience of war and the web of lives affected.”

An array of national leaders attended the news conference hosted by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund to express their support for the project. Several of them, including retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey and U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska spoke at the news conference.

“This is the logical next evolution of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial experience, and I am enthusiastic to be part of the campaign to bring it to life,” said McCaffrey, who chairs the Advisory Board of veterans, authors, historians and educators who advise the Memorial Fund on the exhibits.

During the presentation, Appelbaum said the goals of the center are to enhance the Memorial experience; honor those who died, put faces with the names of those memorialized on the Vietnam Wall, and encourage young visitors to learn more.

He explained how listening, learning, research and discussion with distinguished Vietnam veterans, authorities in charge of the National Mall and everyday Americans have resulted in a clear concept for the center. And, he showed visuals illustrating main components of the planned exhibits:

-- Faces of Service Members: A wall of photos of fallen servicemembers who had their birthday on that particular day, along with any images, letters or other remembrances left at The Wall for that individual.

-- Display of Values: Words such as Respect, Loyalty, Courage, Duty, Service, Honor and Integrity, combined with excerpts from letters of fallen service members that convey those concepts.

-- Artifacts Collection: A dramatic series of glass cases that contain selections of the more than 100,000 items that have been left at the Memorial, including personal letters home from men and women in uniform.

-- Timeline: A factual chronology of military events to give an overview of the span of the war and the key actions.

-- History of the Memorial: A visual and written history of The Wall and the way it has uniquely influenced the way Americans memorialize and pay tribute.

-- Resource Center: Interactive stations where visitors, specifically young people, can access additional information.

-- Legacy of Service: A visual connection between those who served in Vietnam and all Americans in uniform, past and present.

“The center will be the home of some of the personal items that have been left at the memorial and that illustrate the loss and grieving—they are eloquent examples of love and friendship,” Appelbaum added. “Here, we give each name a face and explore the universal bond among all veterans of war.”

The Memorial Center has generated the support of an array of respected public and military officials, including retired Army Gen. Colin L. Powell, the honorary chairman of the Campaign to Build the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Center, and Dr. Christos M. Cotsakos, campaign chairman.

“The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Center will be a place that touches the heart and teaches the mind, enhancing the Memorial experience for people of all ages and walks of life, taking them on a journey through layers of storytelling and history,” said Harry Robinson, a board member of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund who also spoke at the news conference.

“The center will be a commemoration and celebration of the values of loyalty, duty and honor – the values that defined not only the brave young men and women who gave their lives in Vietnam, but in all of America’s wars,” added McCaffrey. “And possibly most importantly, we believe this center will present fantastic learning opportunities for our nation’s young people.”

The center has been authorized by Congress, and the Memorial Fund is working in partnership with the National Park Service, which ultimately will operate it. While the anticipated timeline for design approval, fundraising and the building schedule for the Memorial Center is approximate right now, groundbreaking is expected in 2010, with the center being completed within 18 months after that.

Established in 1979, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund is the nonprofit organization authorized by Congress to build the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Today, through a series of outreach programs, it is dedicated to preserving the legacy of The Wall, promoting healing, educating about the impact of the Vietnam War and is building the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Center, an underground educational facility, near The Wall.

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