The National Veterans Memorial and Museum (NVMM), which opened on October 27, is a striking departure from most American memorials. For starters, it sits not in the nation’s capital but on the bank of the Scioto River in Columbus, Ohio. The location was chosen—with a great deal of influence from the late Marine Corps fighter pilot, astronaut, U.S. senator, and Ohio native John Glenn—in part to offer better access to the millions of often unheralded veterans who trace their roots to the American heartland.
Then there’s the building itself. Instead of the typical colonnaded Neoclassical structure (think the Lincoln or Jefferson Memorials), the NVMM coils skyward in circular concrete. “It’s a space that at once lifts out of the earth and is bound to the earth,” says Brad Cloepfil, founder of Allied Works, the architecture firm behind the project.
Cloepfil’s description reflects the NVMM’s collections as well. While most memorials concentrate on specific conflicts or heroes, this one focuses on ordinary individuals from all military branches and campaigns, across all ethnicities, genders, and creeds. Photographs, videos, and artifacts tell their stories, from recruitment and training to active duty to homecoming and reintegration.
By the same token, the NVMM’s President and CEO, retired U.S. Army Lt. General Michael Ferriter, says the memorial’s upward-sloping sides evoke the rising to a greater call. “People who join the military are hard-wired to be servants,” he says. “What they don’t know is that a life of service becomes habitual—and it is never-ending.”