ARLINGTON, Texas - The National Medal of Honor Museum broke ground in Arlington on Friday on what will become a historic tribute to America’s war heroes.
The groundbreaking happened because the National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation has now exceeded raising $150 million to build the first phase of the museum, which is expected to become a national landmark in Arlington.
A military flyover marked the significant step in the Medal of Honor Museum becoming a reality.
Foundation members turned dirt from all 50 states at the Arlington site next to AT&T Stadium.
The museum will tell the stories of the 3,511 recipients of the highest military honor for valor.
"Awarded for gallantry in the face of danger, actions above and beyond the call of duty, and actions so great no one could rightly be expected to muster," former President George W. Bush explained.
He awarded nine Medals of Honor during his two terms.
"Presenting the Medal of Honor is one of the great privileges of being president," he added.
There are only 66 living recipients of the medal.
There were 16 of them who attended the ceremony Friday.
Among them was Major General Patrick Brady.
As a helicopter pilot during two tours in Vietnam, he rescued more than 5,000 injured soldiers.
"We don't believe we did America a favor by our service and sacrifice, we believe God did us a favor by allowing us to be born in this great country," he said.
Brady said his hope is that the museum will inspire the next generation.
"Young people will learn they can be heroes and they don't have to go to war to do it," he added.
Brady said the foundation of courage is faith.
"I've never known anyone with enduring repetitive courage who is not also a person of faith," he said.
The museum's purpose is inspiring patriotism.
"It can change America. Strength is the key to peace, and there is no peace without patriotism," Brady said.
One of the stories that will be featured in the museum is that of Brady's friend, the late Sergeant 1st Class Webster Anderson, who defended his crew's position from enemy fire in Vietnam, despite terrible injuries from grenade explosions.
"Child raised his hand and said, ‘Mr. Anderson, knowing what you know now, that it would cost you two legs and one arm, would you do it again?’ And he answered, ‘I only have one arm left, but this country can have it any time,’" Brady recalled.
President Bush said stories like that give him peace about America’s future.
"As long as we emulate virtue and character of the people we honor, we will be just fine," he said.
The museum is expected to open its doors in late 2024.