Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Biden, along with congressional leaders and veterans, lined up Wednesday in Washington for a groundbreaking ceremony for the Education Center, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund's next project to honor veterans.(Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta, AP)
Capt. Jesse Melton III, 29, was killed in 2008 in an explosion in
Afghanistan. His mother, Janice Chance, wants the world to remember more
than just a name.
"His eyes. I want them to see the commitment
and pride he's had in his eyes since he was a child," Chance says,
clutching two framed photos of her fallen Marine.
Her dream - the dream of many families like hers -- is now a little closer.
On Wednesday, military brass and Washington VIPs broke ground on the Education Center at The Wall.
The center is across the street from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It
will tell the stories of the 58,282 servicemembers who died in the
Vietnam War, or later as a result of Vietnam service, and those who died
in Iraq and Afghanistan, says Jan Scruggs, president and founder of the
Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.
"It warms my heart," Chance
says. "The center will put a face to the name. It will tell the stories
behind all of these heroes."
Once built, the 35,000-square-foot
Education Center will have a "Wall of Faces" with photos of fallen
servicemembers, a changing display of the more than 400,000 personal
items that have been left at the Wall over the past 30 years, a timeline
of the Vietnam War and an exhibit about what veterans experienced when
they came home.
The center has been in the works for 12 years.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund has raised $47 million of the $85
"We are a little over halfway there," Scruggs says. "We have a lot of momentum now. We can knock this out of the park."