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National Veterans Memorial and Museum Honors Service Members with Veterans Day Events

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Scott Good / WOSU
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Members of the 338th Army Band greet guests on Veterans Day as they enter the National Veterans Memorial and Museum that was built three years ago on the west side of the Scioto River between Franklinton and downtown Columbus.

Several times a year, Darryle Endfinger drives from Kentucky to visit the National Veterans Memorial and Museum in downtown Columbus. Before the pandemic, he’d be there once a month.

Endfinger entered the U.S. Army in 1966 and became a paratrooper. The next year, he went to Vietnam with a recon platoon for the 101st Airborne, where he served in combat situations for 18 months. He then returned stateside for a 33-year career in uniform that included teaching in the Junior ROTC program.

In his hand is a plaque with the names of 19 people from his platoon, numbering 25 in total, who were killed in Vietnam. Visiting the memorial on Veterans Day is especially meaningful for him.

“If it wasn’t for the ones we had combat with, that saved our lives, we wouldn’t have the Veteran’s Day that we have today,” said Endfinger. “So, this is very important to me because of the fallen soldiers that have left us and also for the ones still serving.”

Military service members, their families, and many others commemorated Veterans Day at the recently rebuilt memorial and museum for a day of interactive events.

Retired U.S. Air Force Vice Chief of Staff and four-star General Lester Lyles gave the keynote speech in a program with several other speakers, a benediction, and an armed forces medley by the 338th U.S. Army Band.

Lyles said Veterans Day is an important day to build awareness of who veterans are and their dedication to the country. He said that what they have contributed to the United States is invaluable and he encouraged the public to appreciate their service.

“Recognize, salute, thank your veterans, and check on them in whatever they’re doing to make sure they’re doing okay,” said Lyles.

He also urged the public to visit the memorial and museum.

“This is a very unique place; it is run extremely well,” Lyles said. “It’s a national resource, but a lot of people don’t know about it, and this is a place -- it has to be on your list of places to visit in the country.”

Endfinger echoed Lyles' Veterans Day messages to the public.

“This museum is a fantastic way to show respect to all the armed forces,” said Endfinger. “And as you see a veteran walking the street, welcome him home, tell him thank you for their service. It means a lot to them, especially a Vietnam vet, which didn’t get much recognition when they returned.”

The new, modern National Veterans Memorial and Museum is the country’s national museum for veterans of all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. It opened in 2018 as a reimagining of the Franklin County Veterans Memorial that was established in 1955. Through photos, letters, personal effects, multimedia presentations, and interactive exhibits, the site shares veterans’ stories from the beginning of the United States’ founding.

Additional speakers at Thursday’s program included Franklin County Commissioner Erica Crawley, U.S. Navy veteran; Lt. General Michael Ferriter, retired U.S. Army member and President and CEO of the National Veterans Memorial and Museum; and Wayne Peacock, CEO of the United Services Automobile Association, the presenting sponsor of the day’s events.