The National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation held a groundbreaking ceremony for a new Medal of Honor Museum in Arlington, Texas, Friday, March 25. The museum, which is scheduled to open in 2024, will celebrate the service of the more than 3,500 recipients of the nation’s highest military honor.
Veterans of World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan composed the group of 16 Medal of Honor recipients who attended the ceremony, which also hosted former President George W. Bush, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, and other distinguished guests.
“When you’re looking at a Medal of Honor recipient, you’re looking at someone who has demonstrated gallantry under impossible odds,” Bush said during the ceremony. “You’re looking at someone who has placed duty above self. You’re looking at someone who understands the meaning of sacrifice in the most profound way. And you’re looking at a person of integrity, fortitude, and patriotism. You’re looking at honor. And these values must be preserved, protected, and passed on to our future generations, and that is why the National Medal of Honor Museum is so important.”
The 35,000-square-foot museum will be organized into 13 separate galleries to celebrate recipients from five branches of the armed forces whose actions span 154 years since the medal’s creation. The museum will focus on the individuals who have received the award, but several service members who have received the Medal of Honor said during the ceremony that the medal represented more than the individual who wore it.
“The Medal of Honor represents the love for your fellow countrymen. That’s really what the medal is all about — [that] and fulfilling our commitments that we all make to each other,” retired Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient Britt Slabinski told Coffee or Die Magazine. “I can’t think of a better way to teach those values to our fellow citizens than right here at this museum.”
Salvatore Giunta, who received the Medal of Honor for his actions in Afghanistan in 2007, also spoke at the ceremony. Giunta was instrumental in helping his squad of soldiers escape a well-coordinated Taliban ambush in the Korengal Valley in 2007. He braved enemy fire to treat wounded members of his team, threw grenades that helped beat back the enemy force, and chased down and killed or wounded two enemy fighters who were trying to drag one of Giunta’s fellow soldiers away. In 2010, Giunta became the first living recipient of the Medal of Honor since the Vietnam War. He notably dedicated his medal to the 173rd Airborne Brigade in 2017.
“I’ve got the medal around my neck, but I want you to notice my lapel says 173rd — and that’s what made me the man I am today. It’s not what any one of us did individually but what all of us did together,” Giunta told Coffee or Die. “If we forget the past, we are bound to repeat it. War is a very terrible thing, and it’s tough to want to celebrate combat. But it’s worth recognizing those that made this country the greatest country in the world. What [the medal] represents is all those who never got a chance to come back to a hero’s welcome from combat. They’re the ones who truly made this country great, and this museum will be recognizing them.”
Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last living veteran who received the Medal of Honor for actions in World War II, also attended the ceremony. Williams received the medal for clearing a series of enemy pillboxes with his flamethrower during the Battle of Iwo Jima.
The ceremony also included a demonstration from the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon and a flyover from the 301st Fighter Wing from Joint Base Fort Worth. The museum is expected to open to the public in late 2024.
“I think this museum will really highlight the character values that the recipients espouse and embody,” Robert Shenk, the museum’s chief content officer, told Coffee or Die. “Hopefully, this will be a deeply inspiring place for Americans across the country.”