Joe Wilson seeks official S.C. home for Medal of Honor
As plans proceed to construct a Medal of Honor museum in South Carolina, Lexington County Congressman Joe Wilson is working to give it an official congressional stamp of approval.
The Springdale Republican and Armed Services Committee member introduced a bill (H.R. 6123) in late September seeking a formal designation by Congress for the facility as the “National Medal of Honor Museum.”
The federal approval would officially make the museum in Patriots Point, along Charleston Harbor in Mt. Pleasant, the nationally recognized destination for Americans wanting to learn more about Medal of Honor recipients.
The bill, now in committee, is unlikely to gain approval this year. The website PredictGov.com gave Wilson’s original legislation just a one-percent chance of passage.
However, Wilson spokesperson Leacy Burke said chances for passage should increase exponentially with a new fully GOP-controlled Congress and a GOP president taking over the reins of power in January 2017.
“Congressman Wilson plans to reintroduce the legislation in the 115th Congress and I think it is worth noting that one of the co-sponsors of the bill is House Majority Whip Steve Scalise,” Burke said in an email.
“Recipients of the Medal of Honor showed courage, bravery, and selflessness when defending our country,” Wilson said. “They deserve to have their stories told in a dedicated museum where all Americans can pay tribute to their sacrifice and learn of their heroism.
“I look forward to visitors across the nation and around the world to tour Patriots Point soon.”
The site of the planned museum is near Charleston, which has become a top national tourist destination and a point that should work in his favor. But Wilson said the site has unique historical value as well.
The museum would be located very near to where the heroic Civil War efforts of Union Sgt. William H. Carney earned him the distinction of becoming the first black recipient of the medal. Carney earned the honor for his actions in the Second Battle of Fort Wagner as a member of the all-black 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, made famous in the major-motion picture, “Glory.”
The medal, conferred by the President in the name of Congress, is the nation’s highest military honor, awarded for personal acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty.
One of its most recent recipients is Lexington County resident and University of South Carolina student, U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Kyle Carpenter, who received the medal from President Obama in 2014 for his heroics effort to save fellow a Marine from a grenade blast in 2010 while serving duty in Afghanistan.
Carpenter, 27, now medically retired from the grievous injuries he sustained in the blast, is the nation’s youngest living recipient of the medal.
Wilson’s plan is backed by fellow South Carolina GOP Reps. Mark Sanford, Trey Gowdy, and Jeff Duncan. Already, the S.C. State Legislature has approved $1 million for the museum and provided the site, which is nestled next to the historic USS Yorktown. The legendary battleship, anchored permanently at Patriots Point, currently houses temporary Medal of Honor exhibits pending the museum’s completion.
According to plans, the 107,000-square-foot museum complex will consist of three buildings to include a 240-seat auditorium, a 140-seat chapel, and event spaces.
The National Medal of Honor Foundation, which consists of several noted business, military, and former top-ranking government officials, is still raising funds for the $98 million complex, which the foundation’s board hopes to have completed by 2018. Total costs for the project are estimated at $110 million.
Wilson’s bill points out there are only 77 living Medal of Honor recipients. Their average age is 71, making the museum’s mission of preserving their stories more urgent, he said.
Presently, there are scattered museums dedicated to recipients from various service branches and from various wars.
“But there is no museum that brings together the story of the nation’s highest military honor, all of its recipients, and the wars in which they fought,” the museum’s foundation said in a statement. “The new National Medal of Honor Museum will change that.”
“The museum will be the only one in the country dedicated solely to preserving and presenting the meaning of the Medal of Honor and the stories of its recipients,” the statement added. “Inside visitors will experience a museum and education center that makes personal and emotional connections to recipients, events and the ideals and values that the Medal represents.”
More on the museum here.