Medal of Honor recipient Clint Romesha at a joint Veterans Day event in support of the National Medal of Honor Museum. The event was sponsored by Black Rifle Coffee Company and the Dallas Cowboys. Photo from National Medal of Honor Museum Facebook.
With an opening planned for late 2024, the National Medal of Honor Museum will be a unique home of military history. The 100,000-square-foot museum in Arlington, Texas, will house exhibits, archives, and artifacts relating to the 3,500 US troops who have been awarded the medal. The medal is the nation’s highest honor for valor in combat.
The museum will have 31,000 square feet of galleries dedicated to US troops who have received the award. The museum’s CEO, former Navy SEAL and NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, said the museum will focus on education as much as preservation.
“Our primary mission is to elevate the medal into our nation’s consciousness,” Cassidy said in an interview with Black Rifle Coffee Company, which is one of the museum’s corporate donors. “It’s our nation’s highest award for valor. But quite honestly, a lot of people in America don’t know about it. That’s what we’re trying to turn around as well as highlight the stories of some of these amazing Medal of Honor recipients.”
The building will have five areas dedicated to Medal of Honor winners from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard. The main gallery will be located in a central plaza under a 25,000-square-foot slab of steel, which will appear to be suspended in midair. It will be supported by five pillars.
The Medal of Honor hangs on recipient Maj. Gen. Patrick Brady's chest during a military appreciation event at Clemson University, Oct. 31, 2019. Brady received the nation’s highest award for valor for actions Near Chu Lai, Republic of Vietnam, January 6, 1968 as the pilot of a UH-1H ambulance helicopter, known as a “Dustoff.” Over the course of many hours Brady utilized three helicopters (after the first two were rendered inoperable because of damage from enemy fire) to evacuate 51 seriously wounded men, many of whom would have died without prompt medical treatment. (Photo by Ken Scar)
According to the museum’s architect, Rafael Viñoly, the steel slab is a symbol of the underlying strength of US service members that the Medal of Honor represents.
A Brazilian immigrant, Viñoly said he views his work on the museum as giving back to America.
“As someone who wasn’t born in America, but chose it as my home more than 35 years ago, it is the privilege of a lifetime to have the opportunity,” Viñoly said. “I am humbled to play a part in inspiring current and future generations of Americans by recognizing these exceptional patriots and designing a building which will boldly demonstrate their deep love of country, of devotion to others, and unity.”
A rendering of the central open space planned for the National Medal of Honor Museum. The space will sit below a massive steel plate, symbolic of the forged-in-fire strength of the US military and Medal recipients. Rendering from Medal of Honor Museum.
The inspiration for the giant slab, Viñoly said, struck him by accident. While working in his studio, he strained himself lifting a heavy slab of metal. The simplicity of the steel and the weight of it struck a creative chord, a reminder of the heavy burden carried by the nation’s men and women in uniform. Beyond that, Viñoly said, as steel is forged in fire, it is a metaphor for the country’s armed forces forged in the heat of battle.
Viñoly and his firm have designed a wide range of public buildings including the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia, the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate in Boston, and the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, North Carolina.
Black Rifle Coffee is a corporate sponsor of the museum, as are the Dallas Cowboys. The museum’s board also includes over a dozen major corporations and six Medal of Honor recipients, including David Bellavia, Patrick Brady, and Britt Slabinski.
Army Staff Sgt. Bellavia was awarded the medal for clearing an entire house by himself Nov. 10, 2004, as a squad leader in support of Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah, Iraq. He killed four enemy fighters and wounded a fifth in close-quarters battle.
Army civilian employees pass around Retired Master Sgt. Leroy Petry’s Medal of Honor while attending a Mental Health Awareness Observance May 17, Heritage Hall, Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois. Petry asked the audience to pass around his medal while he served as one of the keynote speakers during the event. Photo courtesy of DVIDS.
Army Maj. Gen. Brady flew and coordinated the evacuation of 51 seriously wounded men during a firefight in Vietnam in January 1968.
Slabinski, a Navy SEAL chief and team leader, led a rescue team of SEALs during Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan in March 2002. Slabinski and his team flew to a mountaintop ambush site to rescue Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts, who had fallen from the back of a helicopter. Slabinski led the team through almost constant combat against an entrenched Taliban force.
Along with the board members, former Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama serve as honorary directors.
“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 a groundbreaking ceremony for the museum in March.
Disclosure: Black Rifle Coffee Company is the owner of Coffee or Die Magazine.
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Matt White is a former senior editor for Coffee or Die Magazine. He was a pararescueman in the Air Force and the Alaska Air National Guard for eight years and has more than a decade of experience in daily and magazine journalism.
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