Working to Build the Education Center

By Jan C. Scruggs

JanScruggs-byWarrenKahle9-6-10Excitement is building as people across the nation participate in the fundraising and photo gathering efforts for the Education Center at The Wall. I recently met with some donors and volunteers in Chicago for. Their generous support overwhelmed and inspired me to keep moving forward.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters is well known, but not for everything that they do.  The Teamsters have worked tirelessly to find jobs for returning veterans by expediting the process by which returning veterans can obtain Commercial Truck Driver licenses. Finding a job after completing a few years in the military is a crucial element to a smooth transition to civilian life.

The Teamsters Military Assistance Program has been led by Teamster Mick Yauger, a combat veteran of the 173rd Brigade in Vietnam.  He is a gregarious, extroverted and dedicated man.  Last week I was with him and a couple hundred people at the Chicago Hilton to raise money for the Education Center at The Wall.

At the benefit we auctioned off a Chicago Cubs jersey and baseball bat, a dinner at the Union Club and an autographed bottle of  Honor Wine etched with Congressional Medal of Honor recipient  Sammy Davis’s dog tag.  The event was endorsed by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Governor Pat Quinn. Colonel Sutherland, who was adviser to Adm. Mullen while Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and who remains engaged in a nationwide effort to find jobs for veterans, made a $3000 donation in the auction for the bottle of Honor Wine. This heroic American has led soldiers in Iraq and lost some fine Americans fighting al Qaeda.

Medal of Honor Recipient Sammy Davis played “Shenandoah” on his harmonica as a tribute to a friend who fell in the Vietnam War. He auctioned the instrument. A man in the audience gave him $3000 for the instrument, but returned the harmonica to Sammy.

Congress recently passed H.R. 588, which  allows donors to be recognized in the Center.  Individuals and companies like ConocoPhillips, Time Warner, Spurs owner Peter Holt, Boeing and others who have made or will make million dollar donations will have their name displayed. One veteran I met will consider a million dollar gift.

It was clear that the veterans of OIF and OEF in attendance were excited and to know that the Education Center will also recognize their efforts.  “I will be there at the dedication to see Bill’s photograph.  Every one of us, a million strong, will visit the Center,” said an emotional veteran who was wounded in Afghanistan.  These 7,000 Americans who have died in the current conflicts will have their photos displayed hourly at the Education Center.

Rendering of the Education Center at The Wall.

Rendering of the Education Center at The Wall.

The Center will celebrate America’s Legacy of Service.  The primary exhibits will show some of the 400,000 items left at The Wall, the history of the war in Vietnam and the photos of the fallen from Vietnam. We now have over 32,000 photos thanks to the efforts nationwide of people like Janna Hoene, who got another eight photographs last week from the area of Hemet, Calif.

The grassroots support is growing nationwide at a significant pace.  Excitement and anticipation surrounding the Education Center are building.  In Times Square, an incredibly moving advertisement is on display that shows two heroes whose photos will one day be displayed in the Center. Volunteers from Chicago to Hawaii to San Diego to Orlando are joined by America’s most respected citizens including the leadership of both parties in Congress, former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs, the Obama Administration and others.

The time to complete the mission is now to complete. We are planning a groundbreaking in 2015. We are raising money. Will you be a part of this?  The Center will celebrate the service of those who risked their lives for your freedom. From Bunker Hill to Baghdad, they will not be forgotten.