The shovels for just for show, but behind the ceremonial groundbreaking for the new Vietnam Memorial Education center were heartfelt words.
“We remember the bravery and heroism involved and we will never forget the sacrifices,” says Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
For 30 years the wall alone has stood as a tormented tribute to the more than 58,000 killed in Vietnam. Now, just across Henry Bacon Drive and the Lincoln Memorial, an education center is planned.
“This will take it even further because nobody knows half these people,” says John Rowan, president of the Vietnam Veterans of America.
Some of the veterans had no family or anyone to remember them, but now they will. The center will give each name a face. It will display some of the hundreds of thousands of personal mementos people have left at the wall over the years and include a timeline of one of the most divisive times in America.
Emogene Cupp of Alexandria can’t wait.
“I think it’s a great idea because that way they will learn in the history of the country just what went on,” says Cupp.
Her son Robert was killed in 1968 and buried on June 17th, his 21st birthday.
Like the Wall, the education center will be built below grade. You’ll actually walk down to get into it, but before they can actually start digging in earnest, they have to finish raising another $38 million.
But the center won’t only be for Vietnam veterans. It will also honor those killed in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“I want America to know Brent Morel died for America and he was proud to do it.”
The goal is to open the new center in 2014 in time for the final troops returning from Afghanistan.
Memorial Fund Founder Jan Scruggs says time is running out to raise the funds because 400 Vietnam Veterans are dying every day. If you're interesting in donating, visit BuildTheCenter.org.