Despite receiving the cold shoulder from Uncle Sam, the $85 million Vietnam War Memorial Education Center has crossed the 55 percent funding mark thanks to foreign government and U.S. corporate donations and is set for a spectacular, post-election groundbreaking.
In what is planned as a remarkable unity scene, organizers told Secrets that the event will feature political foes like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and conservative Texas Gov Rick Perry, three retired generals who served in Vietnam and commanded forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a Vietnam and Iraq-Afghan vet from all 50 states participating in the November 28 groundbreaking.
"The point is to show that the country can come together," said Jan Scruggs, the brains behind the "Education Center at the Wall," and the founder of the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial Fund that built the war memorial. He added that with the Afghan war set to end in 2014, when the Education Center will open near the Wall, "this will be a great time to welcome our heroes home."
Legislation allowing the education center to be built on the memorial- and museum-crowded mall near the Wall did not include federal funding. Several corporations including Time Warner, and the governments of Australia and Singapore have stepped in to help Scruggs raise $47 million, $38 million short of what he needs.
In Maui, $1,000 contributions are being raised by the Maui County Rotary Club to honor the 42 soldiers from the Hawaiian county killed in Vietnam.
Well known politicians, newsmakers and celebrities have been adding their name to the official Groundbreaking Committee, including former President George H.W. Bush, retired Generals Richard Myers, James Jones and Wesley Clark, former White House spokesman Michael McCurry, celebrated Vietnam War journalist Joe Galloway and singer Jimmy Buffett.
The education center is a natural extension of the black granite Wall that lists the thousands of names of Americans killed in Vietnam. It will include the stories of soldiers in all American wars and show the thousands of personal trinkets and mementoes left at the Wall by friends and family of the fallen.
It will also feature the pictures and stories of the somber and often controversial homecoming of American troops from Vietnam. The goal of that display, said Scruggs, will be to make sure America is never again embarrassed by returning war heroes.
Relating Vietnam to Iraq and Afghan war veterans of today, Scruggs said, "Nobody has to sacrifice for the wars. There are no gas lines, no war taxes. There is no pain other than for those who go and their families. For those, this is to show that we do remember and honor them."
Separately, there's talk of Washington hosting a major parade for the last soldiers returning from Afghanistan in 2014. "It's time to get ready for a welcome to the Afghan Vets of 2014," said Scruggs.