Next stop for American Indian Veterans – Education Center of the Vietnam Wall

Congress approves updated Native American Veteran’ Memorial Amendments Act of 2013

By Stephen Bowers (ICC)

In early December of 2013, the United States Congress approved the Native American Veterans' Memorial Amendments Act of 2013 which provides for a veteran statue to be placed on the grounds of the National Museum of American Indians (NMAI).  President Obama signed the Act into law on December 26, 2013.  The fundraising for this statue will be the responsibility of the Museum. We congratulate NMAI for this milestone in their history.
   
In the fall of 2010, the Seminole Tribe of Florida spearheaded a project to build a veteran statue on the National Mall in Washington DC near the Vietnam Wall Memorial that would provide recognition for American Indian/Alaskan Native and Pacific Islanders veteran contributions and sacrifices in the US military.  “We fought side by side with those groups honored through the Three Servicemen Statue at the Wall, the Caucasian, African American and Hispanic.  Why shouldn’t we be recognized alongside our brothers with whom we served?”  Numerous veterans believe that an American Indian soldier should be near that statue, but Congress thought otherwise, so we accept it and move on.
    
We [my wife, Elizabeth and I], are starting our fourth year working to obtain a prominent place of recognition for the American Indian military service to this country in time of war through the American Indian Veterans Memorial (AIVMI).  Whenever the United States went into battle, the American Indians/Alaska Natives and Pacific Islanders participated in greater numbers than any other group.  “We want a more profound recognition of service beyond just a statue at the National Museum of American Indians. Why does everything Indian have to go into an Indian Museum?”
   
While campaigning for a statue at the Vietnam Wall Memorial area, we had the chance to meet on multiple occasions with Jan Scruggs, the Founder of the Vietnam Veteran Memorial Fund (VVMF).  He started this organization in 1979 to lobby Congress for the land the “Wall” sits on now, and raise the money needed to build the Wall using private donations.  This task was accomplished in less than three years which is amazing considering the “hoops” one has to go through to get things passed by Congress, let alone to get permission and approval for something to be built on the National Mall.
           
The next big undertaking on VVMF’s agenda is to build The Education Center at the Wall to be located across the street from the Vietnam Wall and in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial.  We have been invited to have an exhibit in the Center that will honor the” First American Veterans” involvement in military service from the Revolutionary War through Afghanistan.   The Education Center will provide an innovative space where visitors will come face to face with those who gave their lives in service to this country.  It will also provide a time line of the Vietnam War, and display memorabilia that has been left at Wall since it was dedicated in 1982.

We have established a working relationship between AIVMI and VVMF to help raise the funds for building the Education Center, and have committed to raise $10 million.  Our success will ensure that we will have an American Indian Veterans Memorial exhibit be part of the Education Center.  In an addition to touring the Center, multimedia programs will exist online to help students, educators and all visitors deepen their understanding of American Indian/Alaska Native and Island Pacific veteran contributions and sacrifices.  

The Education Center is an exciting opportunity for “Honoring First American Veterans”.  The Education Center at the Wall will offer a place for our people to be truly recognized and can become a rallying point for younger generations to learn more about their warrior heritage.
 
The following are the goals of the “Honoring First American Veterans” Campaign.
 
Objective 1.  Raise at least $10 million to build the Education Center at The Wall, pledged at the earliest possible opportunity and paid through the end of the campaign on December 30, 2018.

Objective 2.  Collect the missing 67 photographs of First Americans Veterans who fell in the Vietnam War.  During the Vietnam conflict, 227 American Indian/Alaskan Native and Pacific Islanders made the ultimate sacrifice for this country.  These young men hailed from thirty states and territories, and served in all branches of the Armed Forces. They deserve proper recognition and honor on the National Mall through the Honoring First American Veterans Campaign.

Objective 3. Collect photographs and remembrances of American Indian/Alaskan Native and Pacific Islanders who served in America’s wars from the Revolutionary War through today’s conflicts.
    
As Jan Scruggs puts it, “The Education Center at the Wall will make it possible for this and future generations to connect with those who served wearing our nation’s uniform, as well as those who died, ensuring that their service and sacrifices will always be treasured and that their legacies will never be forgotten. “  
    
As Chairman of the Honoring First American Veterans (HFAV) Capital Campaign, I am honored to be associated with a group led by someone who has never stopped at his unflinching drive to honor our veterans.   For more information on how you and your tribe can participate in the HFAV Campaign, contact Stephen Bowers, Seminole Tribe of Florida, 6311 Stirling Rd, Hollywood FL 33024, 954-966-6300 x11480, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.   www.aivmi.org
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