We did it!

The National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation announced early last month that, following a national search launched more than a year ago, Arlington has been selected by the Foundation’s Board of Directors as the site for the future National Medal of Honor Museum.

Planned for construction near Arlington’s Globe Life Park and AT&T Stadium, the first national museum of its kind is scheduled to open to the public in 2024.

“Arlington, Texas is honored to be entrusted as the home of the National Medal of Honor Museum,” says Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams. “Located in the heart of our nation, we look forward to commemorating the stories of the 3,500 Medal of Honor recipients to educate, inspire and motivate our youth to understand the meaning and price of freedom. We are excited and humbled to provide a national platform to spread this message throughout our great country.”

Joe Daniels, President and CEO of the National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation, announces that Arlington has been selected as the site of the new National Medal of Honor Museum. Looking on is Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams. (Photo: City of Arlington)

During the final months of the extensive search process, as Arlington was becoming a finalist along with Denver, local city leaders and its populace made a coordinated fervent push for the prestigious museum. Ultimately, the city’s “can do” spirit won over the Foundation’s Board of Directors.

“Arlington, Texas, is the optimal location to build America’s next national treasure – the National Medal of Honor Museum,” says Joe Daniels, President and CEO of the National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation. “All of us at the Museum were simply overwhelmed with the enthusiasm, warmth and level of commitment of those involved, who have worked beyond expectation to have the Museum come to Texas. Seventy recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor have lived in the region and nearly 1.8 million veterans and active duty military currently call Texas home. Centuries of American history are filled with examples of selfless heroism and love of country shown by the men and women of this great state.”

That Arlington even came into play during the process – much less, earn the selection – is rooted in a fascinating, and, for the city, fortuitous, turn of events.

Local resident Sid Eppes, chairman of the Arlington-based AirPower Foundation, was having lunch during the spring with former Medal of Honor recipient Donald “Doc” Ballard, when the topic of the proposed new museum came up.

The AirPower Foundation is a non-profit that supports active duty, reserve and National Guard families, as well as supporting projects to assist wounded, ill or injured service members, children of fallen military personnel and veterans. In fact, the foundation recently raised $2.5 million for those causes during its Sky Ball Gala earlier this year.

Eppes, very much intrigued by the notion of a museum to honor Medal of Honor recipients, asked Ballard if Arlington might be considered as a potential site.

Ballard said the foundation had targeted some half-dozen potential sites, including San Diego, New York, Washington, D.C., and eventual runner-up Denver. But, no, he noted, Arlington hadn’t even been part of talks.

Following the lunch, Eppes says he promptly called his friend and fellow longtime Arlington resident Steve Cavender, who is also a good friend of Mayor Jeff Williams and suggested Cavender call the Mayor.

Cavender did just that, and that started the ball rolling. Williams expressed a desire to follow up on the potential for Arlington to be added to the list. Ballard was able to successfully facilitate the museum foundation board to consider the addition of Arlington as a prospective site. Eppes, representing the AirPower Foundation, worked with the mayor and city officials to assist with the selection of Arlington.

“The Mayor unleashed his team,” Eppes recalls. “When he unleashes his team, they’re ready to go.”

Williams rallied local business and civic leaders and the general citizenship to put together a concerted proposal, and though Arlington’s bid came late in the game, it was administrated with such precision and fervor that the National Medal of Honor Foundation was so impressed that The American Dream City was immediately elevated to the front of the pack – and was officially announced as the site of the museum at the press conference last month.

“The AirPower Foundation was proud to help facilitate bringing the National Medal of Honor museum to Arlington,” Eppes says. “The AirPower foundation has been working with the MOH recipients for a number of years in attending the Sky Ball Gala each year as our honored guests.”

In fact, it was out of this relationship that Eppes befriended Ballard, who was invited to join the AirPower Foundation board as an advisor.

Now, he, Eppes, Cavender and the city’s unstoppable team have become lead characters in a story of great significance – for both Arlington and for the honor it will forever mark.

The Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest and most prestigious military honor, has been awarded to more than 3,500 military service members since the first medal was presented in 1863. The National Medal of Honor Museum will offer an experience that draws personal and emotional connections to Medal of Honor recipients and their inspiring stories, while shedding light on the stories of heroism and the values that the Medal of Honor represents.

A host of local, state and national dignitaries applaud Arlington’s victory, including Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

“On behalf of the people of Texas, I welcome the National Medal of Honor Museum to the Lone Star State,” the Governor says. “There is no better place to honor and preserve the legacy of our nation’s Medal of Honor recipients than in this patriotic city. We are well known for our Texas pride – and we are extremely proud that Arlington, which brings visitors from across our great nation and the world, was chosen as the home of a museum that will surely become a national icon.”

Building a permanent home for the National Medal of Honor Museum in Arlington ensures that the Foundation will be able to share the stories of the more than 3,500 Medal of Honor recipients to the more than 51 million visitors that are warmly welcomed to the region a year, says Colonel Jack Jacobs, a member of the foundation and a MOH recipient. “Putting our roots down and establishing a permanent home for the Museum in Texas, a state that has unmatched ties to the military and military service,” he says, “will allow us to create an experience that inspires a true strength of character.”

Once completed, the National Medal of Honor Museum will provide an unrivaled visitor experience with state-of-the-art permanent, interactive experiences and rotating exhibitions. Serving as a national landmark – and located in America’s heartland – the Museum will illustrate the historical thread of sacrifice, patriotism and courage that runs through all U.S. military service members, past and present. The National Medal of Honor Museum will also include an education center aimed at character development in our nation’s youth. A critical part of the museum’s mission will be to use the stories of Medal of Honor recipients to inspire young people, and motivate them to be their best selves.