Education Center to Enhance Vietnam Veterans Memorial
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 27, 2010 A major fundraising effort is under way to build an underground education center next to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial here that’ll place faces and stories with the names etched in the smooth, black granite known simply as, “The Wall.”
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visits with U.S. Marine and Vietnam veteran Sgt. Paul Masi at the annual Memorial Day observance ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., May 31, 2010. A new education center to be built near the memorial will put faces and stories to the names on “The Wall” and preserve their legacy for future generations. DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“There is magic in that wall with its 58,000 names,” said retired Army Gen. Colin Powell, honorary chairman for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund’s education center campaign. “We want to make sure those names never become anonymous to future generations.”
As it keeps their memories alive, Powell said the center also will “pay tribute to all generations of GIs who answer the call to serve.”
The education center, as envisioned by Jan Scruggs, founder and president of the Memorial Fund, will provide interactive exhibits and primary source materials to help visitors better understand the profound impact of the Vietnam War on servicemembers’ families, their communities and hometowns and the nation. Planned exhibits include a "Wall of Faces," to feature photos of those lost in Vietnam and a gallery of the more than 100,000 items left in tribute at the memorial’s wall since 1982.
Retired Army Gen. Barry A. McCaffrey, VVMF’s advisory board chairman, said the center will ensure that the memory of those who made the ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam lives on.
“This moving underground facility will pay tribute to our veterans and will educate the public about these honorable men and women who gave their lives for their country,” he said.
Scruggs expressed hope that the center will help visitors to understand the importance of the Vietnam Memorial Wall and the role it continues to play in healing the physical, emotional and societal wounds left by the war.
Construction of the center will cost $85 million, all to be raised through private donations. So far, nearly $25 million in pledges has been raised, with donations from corporations, organizations, veterans groups and individuals. Major donors include: Time-Warner Inc.; the Heisley Family Foundation; Veterans of Foreign Wars; Peter M. and Julianna Hawn Holt; Lockheed Martin Corp.; Boeing Company; FedEx Corp.; and the Tawani Foundation.
Peter Holt, owner of the San Antonio Spurs National Basketball Association team, promised his fellow Texans to match up to $1 million in their donations. “Raise a million and I’ll match it,” he challenged.
The History Channel recently announced a $10,000 contribution to the campaign as it also helps the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund get teaching materials about the Vietnam War into America’s classrooms. The History Channel is helping VVMF distribute “Hometown Heroes,” an educational guide designed to help teachers and students identify Vietnam veterans and family members within their communities.
“Education is at the core of VVMF’s mission,” Scruggs said. “Everything we do, from teacher training to building an education center on the National Mall, is geared toward fostering a deeper knowledge of the Vietnam War and those who served.”
Scruggs expressed his appreciation for the generous monetary support received so far, adding he’s confident that it will continue until reaching the $85 million mark.
“As people begin to learn about the education center, we know they will find ways to help us build it,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to tell the stories behind every name on ‘The Wall,’ and to honor all of those who have served and those who will serve this great country in the future.”