December 15, 2019
A New Take
On Honoring Vets
Celebrating its first anniversary, the National Veterans Memorial and Museum in Columbus uses stories from soldiers and loved ones to reconstruct a personal retelling of American military history
Story & Photos by Carmen Gentile
The National Veterans Memorial and Museum in Columbus is not your average collection of dusty relics from a bygone era.
Instead, the museum relies on stories from veterans and their loved ones to curate an experience that gets to the heart of what it means to serve your country.
“It’s not an artifact-based museum, it’s a story-based museum,” said Shelly Hoffman, the museum’s associate director of external affairs.
In one exhibit, visitors lift the lid on a selection of footlockers from different conflicts to hear a recording from veterans who owned them as well as their loved ones. They recall the story of their deployment and how it’s affected those at home from the perspective of those serving, and their spouses.
The museum has been open for just more than a year and was designed by Ralph Applebaum Associates, the renowned museum exhibition design firm that also worked on the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.
Its location in central Ohio is also crucial to its mission of sharing the veteran story with as many people as possible, said Hoffman, adding that it’s home in Columbus is “particularly fitting because we are within a day’s drive of half the U.S. population.”
Carmen Gentile has worked for The New York Times and CBS News, among others. His book, "Blindsided by the Taliban," documents his life as a war reporter and the aftermath of his brush with death after being shot with a rocket-propelled grenade while embedded with U.S. Army forces in Afghanistan.