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On March 25, our country observes National Medal of Honor Day, a solemn annual recognition of more than 3,500 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines whose service to our nation has been distinguished through extraordinary heroism and sacrifice. It was on this date in 1863 that the first Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest military award, was presented to Private Jacob Parrott for his part in the “The Great Locomotive Chase” that ended just outside of Chattanooga. Ultimately, 19 of the 24 members of Andrews’ Raiders were awarded the Medal of Honor for their incredible acts of valor on April 12, 1862.

In that same year, the Chattanooga area would become hallowed ground where 33 additional Medals of Honor were awarded – from the blood-soaked fields of Chickamauga to Missionary Ridge to the stirring site of the Battle Above the Clouds on Lookout Mountain. These acts of valor — also known as the First Medals — created an important heritage that has been entrusted to Chattanooga to preserve as the Birthplace of the Medal of Honor.

While the Medal of Honor heritage starts in Chattanooga, its story is one that resonates nationwide. Every recipient has a narrative that is relevant to what we do – whether it be on a battlefield, board room or everyday life. Each of these amazing, inspiring and, all too often, heart-breaking stories define the meaning of valor and the virtue of putting service over self. These stories serve as a testament for how ordinary people can rise up and meet the most daunting challenges. They also provide the ideal role models to teach future generations about six character traits that embody their gallantry – Patriotism, Citizenship, Courage, Integrity, Sacrifice and Commitment.

The National Medal of Honor Heritage Center is dedicated to connecting people with this history.  We are an engaging storyteller, which is why we designed our 19,000-sq.-ft. facility at the Aquarium Plaza in downtown Chattanooga to feature life-sized exhibits that tell the real-life stories of these ordinary people who demonstrated extraordinary heroics under the most difficult circumstances. Each of our immersive exhibits will use innovative technologies to combine the sights and sounds of the Medal of Honor narratives with a vibrancy and immediacy of what happened on that day. As a result, we hope to create an emotional engagement and a more profound, memorable experience for our visitors.

In late 2017, a dedicated group of veterans and business leaders cam together and launched a capital campaign to raise the necessary funds for designing and building a new National Medal of Honor Heritage Center in the heart of where its heritage started with Andrew’s Raiders and The Great Locomotive Chase in April 1862 – Chattanooga, Tenn.

Officially opened on February 22, 2020, the National Medal of Honor Heritage Center will serve as a lasting tribute to the recipients of the first Medals of Honor and all recipients since. By doing so, it will become a place that reverently underscores both the heritage of the Medal of Honor and the sacrifices made by various recipients from the Civil War to the Global War on Terror.

We look forward to see you soon.