Museum helps tell veterans’ stories every day of the year
ach November, we observe Veterans Day to collectively recognize those who so bravely served our country. While this day encourages conversation about our nation’s veterans, it is all too common to let the conversation end with the day, only to start again next November.
Less than two weeks ago, right here in Columbus, the National Veterans Memorial and Museum opened its doors to the public. Built on four pillars — Honor, Connect, Inspire, Educate — it is a place for all to witness the sacrifices our men and women make in order to serve our country. After my 35-year career in the United States Army, I could not have been more proud to welcome my fellow servicemen and servicewomen as they experienced the museum for the first time.
I had the opportunity to meet the mother who lost her son. A mother who allowed us to share her powerful story through a heartbreaking, single photo in the Coming Home exhibit. I shook the hand of a veteran who brought his grandson to the museum to share stories of his time in service, maybe some for the first time.
I watched as a POW and his wife moved through the thematic alcoves, listening to their own stories from decades ago, shared in their own words. Each veteran, each story, each moment is a powerful testament to what it means to serve — to give of one’s self, to sacrifice for the good of all, not just one.
There is a place to write questions on giant note cards and hang on a display. Guests should carry these veteran stories beyond the concrete walls and the glass windows, eager to share with others.
The alcove is called A National Conversation. On the evening of the grand opening, I noticed a question hung here, written by a child. It said, “If you know that you are going to miss home, why do you leave?”
There are many answers to this question and they are as varied as the 42 million people who have served this country since our beginning. But I know that many veterans would say, I leave for you. I leave in order to make the world a better place for you to live and to pursue your own path, whatever that may be.
It is my hope that when guests leave this place, they carry these veteran stories beyond the concrete walls and the glass windows, eager to share with others. Whether it’s walking through the alcoves and engaging in deeply personal accounts of veteran experiences or gazing up at the photos hanging from the ceiling in the Great Hall, these are the stories of our veterans, our family, our friends and our next-door neighbors.
It is my hope that this connection will inspire a ripple effect. The NVMM is a platform for a much greater discussion, and it all starts with a story. With each visit, these stories take new form. They are retold around the dinner table or over the phone to a friend.
They are points of discussion after a class field trip and a new way for children to connect with their grandparents who have served. They take the form of a “thank you for your service” extended to a stranger in the airport and the ultimate question to our loved ones, and to ourselves, of what other stories have yet to be told.
To limit our recognition of veterans to one day is to do an injustice. Let the conversation continue. Make the effort to ask for and listen to veterans’ stories, to educate yourself and help to educate others.
Today I am grateful for my fellow veterans. I am thankful for everyone who chose to put others before themselves, to prioritize this country and all of those who call it home. Come tomorrow and beyond, I will still be thanking them. Do not limit your gratitude to one day. Choose to start, continue and contribute to this discussion each and every day honoring those who have served.