Many people are surprised when they find out a National Medal of Honor Museum does not already exist. We have halls of fame for sports and music, but nothing for those who have been awarded the highest recognition for valor in combat. Nearly 40 million brave individuals have served in the United States Armed Forces. Fewer than 4,000 have received the Medal of Honor.
The stories of Medal of Honor recipients read like well-written works of action-packed fiction. Yet, the reality is, they aren’t fiction. They are true stories of individuals who acted selflessly and heroically on the battlefield – many making the ultimate sacrifice. This museum will tell their stories and honor their valor. But, as Medal of Honor recipient and proud Texan General Pat Brady often says, “the Medal is about more than valor, it is about values.” So, this museum will also proudly promote the values the Medal represents: courage and sacrifice, commitment, integrity, citizenship and patriotism.
Ultimately, our mission is to build a world-class museum and inspire America.
As the President and CEO of this historic effort, let me take a moment to answer three of the questions we hear most frequently.
First, just over 3,500 individuals have received the Medal of Honor. Only 69 of those recipients are living. I am sad to say two have passed away this year. Many of the living recipients are from the Vietnam era. We would like to complete this project swiftly to ensure that as many of them as possible are able to see it and contribute their firsthand accounts to our collections and work.
Second, this is a project all Americans can unite around. Much like with my previous experience leading the effort to build the National September 11th Memorial and Museum, we’ve seen people of all backgrounds set aside their differences to join together on this amazing project. At a time when so much seems to divide us, many are searching for inspiration and hope. This project will demonstrate the awesome things we can accomplish when we come together.
In October 2019, the National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation concluded a year-long nationwide search for the best place to build what is going to be one of the premier museums in the country and a true national treasure – the National Medal of Honor Museum. Most readers here probably know Arlington was selected and the museum is now slated to be built on pristine lake-side property between AT&T stadium and Globe Life Park. What you may not know is why Arlington was selected. Here’s the quick scoop.
To have maximum impact, a national museum needs to be in an area where visitors are measured in the millions, not thousands. Arlington draws approximately 15 million annual visitors. We wanted to be sure the museum is built in a place a majority of Americans can get to so placing it centrally in the country, near a major transportation hub like DFW, makes a lot of sense. Finally, on each of our preliminary visits to North Texas, there was such an obvious sense of patriotism and pride which, when coupled with the overwhelming support from amazing community leaders and Texas philanthropic all-stars, made the choice clear.
What’s this I hear about a Medal of Honor Monument?
This project is historic in many ways, but one of the most significant is our two-track approach to honoring the valor of Medal of Honor recipients and the values the Medal represents. In addition to the museum being built in Arlington, legislation is currently moving through Congress to authorize our organization to build the National Medal of Honor Monument in Washington, D.C. It seems fitting to have a museum in America’s heartland and monument in our nation’s capital.
This monument is going to be unique in several ways. First, once our legislation is passed and signed into law, we plan to launch a national design competition giving every American the chance to be part of designing this national landmark. Second, because the Medal will continue to be awarded, this is the first truly “living” monument in Washington, D.C. We are excited for the day when presidents may hold Medal of Honor ceremonies at this monument or stand in its shadow to commemorate National Medal of Honor Day on March 25th each year.
How Can I Get Involved?
We are always looking for support and help getting the word out. From event volunteers (when we have events again) to financial contributions and any fun idea in between. We are open to all suggestions and all assistance. One fun example, we recently teamed up with author Brad Meltzer and DC Comics to tell the real-life story of Medal of Honor recipient Sal Giunta in the form of a Batman comic. Check it out here. To find out more about the Museum and Monument projects, to follow our progress, and to get involved please visit mohmuseum.org.
AUTHOR: Joe Daniels is President and CEO of the National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation. He previously served as President and CEO of the National September 11th Memorial and Museum in New York City. He’s an avid walker – we’re talking 20,000 steps a day – so you’re likely to see him doing laps around his office inside the Arlington Convention & Visitors Bureau.