It’s always a pleasure to read the letters and notes that often accompany donations to the National Medal of Honor Museum. Many of you recount your own experiences with a Medal recipient – on the battlefield or at a conference or in a classroom. It’s clear that those encounters make a lasting impression.
Lance Sijan was a classmate of mine at the Air Force Academy. He would receive the Medal of Honor, posthumously, for his actions in Vietnam a few years after we graduated and his courage has always been an inspiration to me. More recently, it has been a privilege to get to know so many recipients in person as our plans for the museum and education center have progressed.
“Each of these men did what they felt was right regardless of if they were going to be in danger or not. They have taught me to do more with my life,” wrote one student about the time he spent with a recipient. That is the kind of outcome we hope to achieve with visitors to the new museum. Our objective is a center that draws on the stories of Medal recipients to inspire visitors of all ages and to offer lessons about patriotism, leadership and courage. And about what it means to place service above self.
The museum has been designed to break even financially with annual attendance of 225,000, significantly below a projected annual visitation of 280,000. We believe, however, that the impact of the exhibits and programs planned for the new facilities can and should be felt across the country and around the world. As we welcome hundreds of thousands of visitors to Mount Pleasant each year, we can welcome millions to a virtual museum experience.
There exists a rich trove of archival material – letters, journals and diaries, oral histories and other audio and video interviews, published material – which we can draw upon to create an interactive, emotional experience both on- and off-site.
Outreach initiatives are an important component of our plans for the new museum and education center. Electronic field trips and other distance learning efforts will expand significantly the reach of initiatives like the Congressional Medal of Honor Society’s Character Development program, not only into classrooms but also to service organizations and even into homes. But we have the opportunity to do so much more. We realize that there are many people who will be unable to visit – or revisit – the Mount Pleasant site. Our outreach initiative offers the opportunity for a virtual visit. Created for first time and repeat visitors, the virtual experience brings to life the stories of recipients and the values and ideals of the Medal.
The growth of our Facebook community and the comments we receive on our posts tell us that there’s an interest in and appetite for this kind of an initiative, which has the potential to touch not only every city and town in America, but every American anywhere in the world.
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National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation Statement on Passing of Medal of Honor Recipient, Hershel “Woody” Williams
The National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation mourns the passing of Hershel “Woody” Williams, who passed away on June 29, 2022, at the age of