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Posted on Jun 18, 2007 in History News

National Military History Center to showcase proud heritage

Armchair General

AUBURN – Two states, two organizations and two men with a vision came together on Flag Day to unveil plans for a unique facility honoring the achievements of U.S. veterans.

The Kruse Foundation, headed by famed Indiana entrepreneur and auto auctioneer, Dean V. Kruse, announced plans for a multi-million dollar expansion of the popular World War II Victory Museum. The facility will become part of a larger complex of museums and galleries known as the National Military History Center.

The center, Kruse said, will honor those who have sacrificed in the name of freedom.

“This new facility will start with the Revolutionary War and will go right up to today’s global war on terror,” Kruse explained. “This project isn’t about celebrating war…It’s about honoring the rich legacy of the people and the events that have preserved our freedom.”

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In 1999, Dean and Kristin Kruse and the Kruse Foundation spent more than $22 million to establish the World War II Victory Museum, which houses the assets from the Belgian Victory Memorial Museum. The Auburn, Ind., museum Kruse founded offers one of the world’s premiere collections of World War II military equipment. Kruse said the new history center will offer a wealth of artifacts, images, interactive exhibits and state-of-the-art displays, spotlighting all eras of U.S. military history. A national education program also is planned.

Sharing the podium with Mr. Kruse were Mike Jackson and Tara Dixon-Engel, veterans advocates and founders of the American Veterans Institute. Jackson, a retired Air Force combat pilot, announced that Kruse’s new history center project will also be home to the American Veterans Hall of Honor and American Veterans Research Library. The American Veterans Institute, located in Tipp City, OH, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to grass roots initiatives to honor veterans.

“Our country has halls of fame for baseball players, aviators, inventors and race car drivers…but we have nothing that celebrates the achievements of those who protect and defend our freedom,” Jackson explained. “Thanks to Mr. Kruse’s patriotism and generosity, the new hall of honor will induct and celebrate those who have used their military training and experience to enrich society and excel in both the military and civilian arenas.”

Jackson added that the research library will preserve veteran books, manuscripts, journals, letters, images and audio or videotape. “If you are lucky enough to have a book published, that’s great,” the Vietnam veteran explained. “But most veterans recall their military or combat experience on paper in a small booklet or in letters home or through photos or videos. Those things get lost or thrown out with the passing years. This research library will preserve, archive and digitize such documents so future generations can see history as written by those who LIVED it, not by those who only interpreting it.”

The Flag Day press conference unveiled a comprehensive strategic plan for the new facility and kicked off the capital campaign for the additional $23 million necessary to complete the project. That amount is in addition to the $22 million already invested in the facility by the Kruse Foundation.

Ideally, Kruse would like to break ground on the National Military History Center on July 4, 2008. Jackson and Dixon-Engel explained the significance of that date, telling the audience that Auburn, Indiana will be the site of the next national Operation Welcome Home celebration for America’s Vietnam veterans – and now for the Korean War veterans, as well, on July 4-6, 2008. Two national celebrations have been held in Las Vegas (2005) and California (2006), along with many regional and local events. The welcome home events were inspired by the duo’s Vietnam memoir, Naked In Da Nang (Zenith Press 2004).

“We believe Auburn will host the biggest Operation Welcome Home yet,” said Jackson, who is National Chairman for Operation Welcome Home. “Through the celebrations in other communities, we have seen the healing power of this event. We are honored that the Kruse Foundation and Auburn want to make sure no veteran ever feels that his service and sacrifice aren’t appreciated. We urge everyone to mark your calendars for the Fourth of July weekend 2008. It’s going to be the biggest party East of the Mississippi!”

Jackson presented the Operation Welcome Home banner to Dean Kruse as co-chairman Dixon-Engel read a “passing the torch” letter from the California celebration and presented an Operation Welcome Home flag to Kruse Foundation Executive Director Bob Krafft. The organization is honored to have this opportunity to welcome home the GIs who served the United States with courage and honor in Vietnam and Korea, Krafft said. “They didn’t get much of a welcome home at the time, but we’re going to change that,” he added.

For more information on the National Military History Center, Operation Welcome Home or the American Veterans Institute, visit www.militaryhistorycenter.org, www.nationaloperationwelcomehome.com, or www.americanveteransinstitute.org.

For information on the National Military History Center, call Bob Krafft at 260-927-9144, ext. 201. For information on Operation Welcome Home, call Tiffany Miller at 260-927-9144, ext. 203 or Tara Dixon-Engel at 937-669-2040.

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