On this Memorial Day weekend, it feels both necessary and proper to recommit to the creation of America’s next national treasure: the National Medal of Honor Museum.
Located on the banks of Charleston Harbor in Mount Pleasant, our future home is an historic and stunningly beautiful locale for which we are extremely grateful. If done right, this museum will remind us and future generations of the patriotic bonds that tie us together as Americans. Based on the depth of love and affection this country, and this state specifically, has for those who have served — including those we remember on Memorial Day — I am confident that we will succeed.
The now 72 living Medal of Honor recipients, the nearly 3,500 total recipients since the Civil War, and the millions of men and women who have fought for the United States of America deserve nothing less than our all-out commitment to this goal.
Everyone should know and deeply understand this fact: The recipients of America’s highest military honor represent the best of the best of who we are as a country. The core values of courage, sacrifice, integrity and putting others above self are embodied in each person who has worn the medal. This is a medal that, to the recipients, represents not themselves, but rather, is worn for those who they fought alongside and for those who never came home.
Similarly, the recipients are supportive of the creation of this museum not as a self-promoting monument, but rather they understand that the stories of their bravery and selflessness have tremendous power to inspire future generations to be brave — far from distant battlefields — in the tough moments that are faced here, at home, every day. It is just another expression of selfless contribution the Medal of Honor recipients want to make to the country they love so dearly.
I know, deep in my heart, that a certain percentage of kids who come through this museum or interact with the Medal of Honor Society’s Character Development Program will, when faced with the all-too-familiar scene of watching a fellow classmate get bullied, choose not to remain silent and instead, they will step forward to say “Hey, leave that kid alone.” As adults, we know all too well the many moments of personal risk that demand action. This museum will serve as a catalyst for doing the right thing when the times require. It will remind us that our highest mutual bond is our love of country and the values it represents.
As the former president and chief executive officer of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, I know first-hand the positive effect that the narratives of sacrifice and bravery can have. I have seen a fundamentally transformative impact from the stories of the more than 400 first responders who were killed on 9/11 and the countless stories of regular citizens helping their colleagues on the tens of millions of people who have visited that sacred place. The Medal of Honor recipients and their actions — from the battlefields of the Civil War to the sand-soaked hills of Afghanistan, and every conflict in between — will undoubtedly have lasting impact on each and every person who takes the time to absorb their near-unfathomable experiences.
Critical to that goal are our stakeholder communities: the recipients and their families, the broader military community and, of course, the local residents of Mount Pleasant and the surrounding region. We recently announced that our best chance for collective success is to reach out to these stakeholders to hear their aspirations and desires for this new museum. Our designers, the world-renowned architect Moshe Safdie and best-in-class exhibition designer Patrick Gallagher, have been, and will continue to be, invaluable partners in this process. I am confident that our shared commitment to this project will result in an institution that makes all of us proud. There is no architect in the world who can combine such an important mission with the beauty of the natural environment that we will build on as Moshe Safdie. As the vision for the physical design continues to evolve, we are excited to work with Safdie and his team to build a National Medal of Honor Museum that reflects the community and honors the tremendous sacrifice of our nation’s service members.
It is a fundamental precept that things that are worthwhile never come easy. However, through the dedication of the museum’s Board of Directors, this community, a dedicated team and the existing and future financial contributors including our state and federal partners, there will come a day when we will be standing with every living U.S. president, all the living recipients and their families, veterans from every branch of the military and thousands of flag-waving Americans as we open the museum’s doors. It will be then that we know we did something right to honor our nation’s heroes.
Joseph Daniels is CEO of the National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation.
The Post and Courier, Opinion, 5/26/2018
Medal of Honor recipient and Museum leadership accepts gift during St. Louis Cardinals pre-game ceremony, participates in a fireside chat with Anheuser-Busch employees September 21,