published Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

Roberts: Medal of Honor Museum could have been better


by Dalton Roberts

One ball that we dropped here was the chance to build a true Medal of Honor Museum. I would still love to see one built somewhere to honor those who have earned the nation's highest military honor.

When a group of local veterans came to me with the idea for the project, I got very excited. So excited, in fact, that I offered them the county's Silverdale property, the last piece of real estate with freeway visibility along I-75. They had a rough design for the facility shaped like a large star. It thrilled me to visualize that big star alongside the interstate.

They told me to keep the idea quiet until we could get the project off the ground because the veterans in Nashville were wanting to build it. To my amazement, they rented a building and started dragging a bunch of old military junk into it and added to the Medal of Honor idea the additional idea of a museum of military history.

In my opinion, this was a kiss of death for the Medal of Honor idea. Can you imagine what a building you would need to do any kind of justice to the military history of this nation? To mix the two ideas was simply unwise and counterproductive, to say the least. With something like the Medal of Honor Museum they initially proposed, I could just see billboards along I-24 and I-75 saying "don't miss the Medal of Honor Museum in Chattanooga."

I could even imagine how it could be laid out to honor the recipients with exhibition areas for each person who has ever received the award, a description of their brave actions and some interesting biographical information. Videos also could have been developed.

We are so proud of our two winners of this highest award, Charles Coolidge and Desmond Doss, that I can easily imagine how people from all over America would have wanted to stop and see their hometown heroes featured in such a panoramic display.

Other than the mistake of mixing the two distinctly different ideas, we also erred as a community in not placing the responsibility for development of the concept into the hands of a broad-based, creative group of local movers and shakers with a vision for its possibilities.

Once when I was in Kansas City I went through the Harry Truman Museum. The displays basically centered around the issues he had to deal with while president. It was engrossing, exciting and educational.

I am convinced a Medal of Honor Museum would be equally exciting. It could have been a big tourist draw for our community, but my dominant motivation was to honor all the Medal of Honor winners in our history. I find it utterly unacceptable that such a thing has not been done already, and I predict that some community will eventually do it.

If some community does not catch the vision, the government certainly should create such a facility. I know the mood in the country at this time seems to be for government to do less and less, but surely we all can agree that we owe our best efforts to honoring those brave Americans who went so far beyond the call of duty to protect us and our freedom.

Email Dalton Roberts at DownhomeP@aol.com.

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