Charles H. Coolidge National Medal of Honor Heritage Center opening Feb. 22

Local, national dignitaries to help open new Medal of Honor Center

Staff Photo by Tim Barber/ This Charles H. Coolidge seal is placed in the ceiling inside the Charles H. Coolidge National Medal of Honor Heritage Center.

The opening of the highly anticipated Charles H. Coolidge National Medal of Honor Heritage Center is set for Saturday, Feb. 22, at the downtown location, 2 W. Aquarium Way, Suite 104.

The public is invited to join at least 15 visiting Medal of Honor recipients - including the oldest living recipient and the youngest - along with national, state and local dignitaries for a 10 a.m. ribbon-cutting and special celebration.

"Feb. 22 will be an exciting day for our city, state and country as we officially open the National Medal of Honor Heritage Center," says Maj. Gen. William B. Raines, U.S. Army (Ret.), who is chairman of the board for the Charles H. Coolidge National Medal of Honor Heritage Center.

"In doing so, we have finally secured a national home that will preserve the heritage of the Medal of Honor, which is also an important part of our city's heritage. The Heritage Center will serve as a lasting tribute to these genuine American heroes who represent the best and bravest of all who have served and sacrificed in defense of our nation and a place that strives to educate the next generation about the character traits associated with their gallantry."

The new Heritage Center is a 19,000-square-foot facility featuring exhibits that tell the real-life stories of Medal of Honor recipients and how they exemplify six common character traits: patriotism, citizenship, courage, integrity, sacrifice and commitment.

From 1 to 6 p.m. Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, self-guided tours of the Heritage Center will be offered. Tour tickets ($9.95-$13.95) are required and may be purchased at Special discounts are offered to military and senior citizens and group rates are available.

The Heritage Center incorporates the latest technology for an engaging, interactive experience for visitors of all ages. Each exhibit is designed to immerse guests in the stories of these American heroes by combining the sights and sounds of Medal of Honor narratives with an immediacy of what happened that day.

(MORE: A look at Tennessee's Medal of Honor recipients and their stories)

"We believe the Heritage Center will forever serve as a testament to what makes Chattanooga special - our great sense of patriotism, purpose and pride," says Bill Hullander, chairman of the grand-opening committee and trustee. " Thanks to our incredible veteran community and generous philanthropic donors, we have truly created a place that not only honors Chattanooga's rich heritage and military history but will inspire and encourage future generations of youth with the stories and character traits exemplified by our Medal of Honor recipients."

"In this day and age where superheroes are all the rage at the box office, the National Medal of Honor Heritage Center will spotlight real superheroes, those ordinary men and women who performed extraordinary acts of valor under the most extreme circumstances," says Keith Hardison, executive director of the Heritage Center.

The Heritage Center also features two classrooms and an event space that will be used for Medal of Honor Character Development and Character Club programs for students, as well as for meetings, social events and other community activities.

The center will also have a changing exhibit gallery. The first exhibit, "Honoring the Sacrifice: Medals of Honor Through Time," features the stories of Medal of Honor recipients from the Civil War to Vietnam, along with their medals, related artifacts and images.

For more information: 423-877-2525.