Photo by Brian Kaiser.

Memorial Of The Past, And A Gift Of The Present

On May 21, 1953, ground was broken for a building that would go on to hold over 60 years of memories. The Franklin County Veterans Memorial Auditorium was a familiar presence, unrivaled in its worth in the community to many. Scenes of superstars like The Who, Elvis Presley, and Tina Turner drawing crowds whose energy could barely be contained by its walls. Celebrations for ambitious teenagers ceremoniously crossing the same stage nights later. Each individual anxiously marching into adulthood, leaving the growing pains of high school behind. A structure versatile enough to house the greatest competitors, exhibitions, town halls, and much more: a staple in Columbus’s history. Its walls lined with the plaques dedicated to a sample of Ohio’s veterans. By 2015, after years of service, the treasured Franklin County memorial was torn down to its skeleton. With this demolition, decades of meaningful memories settled gracefully into the ground, providing a rich soil for a powerful resurrection.

Now in 2018, standing mightily by the Scioto River, is the new National Veterans Memorial and Museum, the first national museum of its kind. Three years and 82 million dollars later, the civic landmark sprawls across seven acres of land, with over 50,000 square feet inside of the magnificent structure. An impressive two and a half of those acres is dedicated to a memorial grove whose intention is to offer a natural sanctuary for reflection and remembrance.

The memorial and museum will offer accommodations for ROTC graduations, veteran ceremonies & reunions, as well as celebrations. Aside from being a venue that lends its space to these prestigious occasions, the National Veterans Memorial and Museum’s goal is to honor, connect, inspire, & educate the community as well as the nation. The mission states that the NVMM will “Honor, Americans’ contribution to our country through military service. Connect, civilians with veterans and their experiences. Inspire, visitors to serve their community and nation as active, engaged citizens. And finally to, Educate, school children about the history and value of service.

The honoring of veterans through their military service will not fixate on war or any particular branch of the military, but the journey of individuals. The narratives provided for this experience give a deeper, more intimate look into what it is to be a veteran. Artfully constructed installments depict stories of sacrifice, leadership, fearlessness, growth, discovery, and resilience.

Each cove places emphasis on different hero’s journey, past and present. Running parallel to these displays, is a frosted glass wall that curves effortlessly through the facility, presenting a timeline that praises and informs us of revolutionaries like Peter Francisco, an immigrant and a soldier described as a one man army. Over 200 years and several yards down the timeline, we are given the opportunity to admire the voyage made by Iraq war Lieutenant, history making politician, and heroine, Tammy Duckworth.

Draped high above are commanding photographs of numerous veterans and active duty members in and out of uniform. Each banner reminding us of the transformation that those seemingly ordinary civilians go through once they answer the call of duty and adhere to the demand of the greater good. Colorful reflections of light dance on each carefully constructed piece of architecture, when the sun beams through the multi-colored glass panels thoughtfully placed along the walls of the second floor. Each vibrant section representing the memory of those lost. Every aspect of this memorial and museum allows visitors to truly be able to connect with a sample of history and offer a new appreciation of the sacrifices made by the nearly 21 million veterans living in the United States right now. Skillfully curated displays will both inspire and educate individuals of all ages and walks of life, from start to finish.

Each veteran across the country has a story as valuable and breathtaking as the next, awe inspiring stories of heroism, tragedy, triumph, loss, and liberty. These are the treasured stories that often times get lost in the traffic of our daily lives and complaints. But here in our hometown that changed. October 27, 2018, under the commanding presence and keynote speech of the legendary four- star General Colin Powell, the National Veterans Memorial and Museum opened its doors. At last, these anecdotes, memories and countless pieces of history have a permanent home on the banks of the Scioto.