Three years in the making, the National Veterans Memorial and Museum opens Saturday on the banks of the Scioto River.
It’s dizzying to look at: a circular building whirling upward like New York's Guggenheim Museum, crisscrossed with cement support slabs and plated with huge windows.
Walking in, you have to crane your neck back to see the ceiling, from which gigantic portraits hang, depicting veterans from across American history.A timeline of American military conflict runs along a left wall, while 14 alcoves describing the steps of a veteran’s journey, from the call to service to coming home, stagger down the right.
Snippets of audio drift from the exhibits: soldiers taking the oath, Navy men sharing stories of the sea, generals describing their homecomings.
But with all of that, museum executive director Lt. Gen. Michael Ferriter says his favorite feature is simple:
“The front door. Because each person will come through there,” he says. “Each veteran, each family member, each member of the general public. And they all have their own story.”
That’s an important point in a museum and memorial that focuses on the experiences of the individuals that served, rather than zeroing in on any one conflict or war. But Ferriter believes that, despite not serving under the same administration, or even in the same century, there’s a connective tissue between all vets.
“It’s this, ‘I will never let my brother down, I will never accept defeat, I will never leave a fallen comrade, I will always be there for you,'" he says. "With that sort of overriding attitude, and then these experiences of shared hardship and shared fun, that’s what bonds veterans together."
The $82 million, 53,000-square-foot project was originally the vision of the late John Glenn, a veteran, astronaut and longtime U.S. Senator. After Glenn died in 2016, the rest of Ohio's congressional delegation took up his cause.
Both Sens. Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown sponsored a bill in the Senate, with a companion bill from Ohio representatives in the House, to give the museum a national designation. President Donald Trump approved the "National Veterans Memorial and Museum Act" back in June.
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell is slated to deliver the keynote address at the museum's grand opening Saturday.