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November/December 2018

Photo ©Michael Keating

Plug Pulled on Wall Education Center

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund announced September 21 that its Board of Directors—John C. Dibble, Alan Buckelew, William F. Murdy, Michael J. Nardotti, Jr., Janis Nark, Harry G. Robinson III, John O. Woods, Jr., and VVMF President Jim Knotts—had voted unanimously to discontinue efforts to build a $130-million underground Education Center near The Wall on the Mall in Washington, D.C.

VVMF had raised only about $45 million for the project, which was first proposed in 2000. Fundraising began in 2003 for the Education Center, which would have contained photographs of all of the 58,000-plus men and women who died in Vietnam and whose names are engraved on The Wall. It also would have had a small theater, exhibits, and programs focused on the war and on Vietnam War veterans.

“This project has faced many difficult challenges since [the Memorial’s creator] Jan Scruggs conceived the idea,” Knotts said when the decision was announced. “It has been a long road, and we have had many successes along the way. Unfortunately, we’ve reached that point regarding a physical building [that] the funding has simply not materialized.”

Knotts said that VVMF would focus its educational efforts on “online resources, hand-held technology, education staff, mobile exhibits and partnerships to teach visitors about the Vietnam War and honor those whose names appear on the Memorial.”

VVMF said that $23 million of the donated money had been spent on “construction design, exhibit planning, awareness building, and preliminary work necessary for specific exhibits.” About $17 million that was restricted to “hard construction,” he said, “may be returned after discussions with those donors.”

The project was not without controversy. Objections were raised at the outset by those who believed that the stark Vietnam Veterans Memorial itself spoke volumes about the war and about those who served, especially those who perished. And as the projected cost of the center rose and fundraising slowed in recent years, more than a few people believed it would never come to fruition.

Scruggs, who spearheaded the project and helped raise millions of dollars for the Educational Center, came to that conclusion himself about three years ago.

“The time has come for the VVMF to return the money” to all its donors, Scruggs said the day the Fund announced the project would end.

A newspaper reporter that day asked Scruggs—who retired as VVMF head in 2015 and recently recovered from a life-threatening heart ailment—if he was “sad” about the sudden end of the Education Center project.

“No. I think it’s great,” he replied.





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-Leaps & Bounds: Mt. Clemens, Michigan, Chapter 154   Photo ©Michael KeatingPlug Pulled on Wall
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