CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - You often hear the names of local veterans, like Charles Coolidge or Paul Huff, but do you know the stories behind the names? One local non-profit is dedicated to keeping the Tennessee Valley's military history alive, but is asking for a little support from the community.
The National Medal of Honor Museum of Military History in Chattanooga showcases a very rich history, but it's looking to relocate and garner more support from those in the Tennessee Valley.
"This museum is all about the medal of honor, which is the highest award for valor in combat our nation can award to our military," Executive Director Jim Wade says.
The National Medal of Honor Museum has been in Hixson for the past ten years and holds a treasure trove of military history.
"We have nine men who we honor here in the museum, who are from the general area, who've received the medal of honor and we have five of their medals," Wade says.
One of those men is Sergeant Charles Coolidge, for which Coolidge Park is named after. He's one of only 12 living recipients of the medal from World War II. You make also recognize the name of Sergeant Major Paul Huff of Cleveland, a medal recipient as well.
"We have two statements in our mission statement. One is to honor those men, which we do here in the museum. And secondly, is to educate current and future generations," Wade says.
Wade is an army veteran. He says the museum first opened its doors at Memorial Auditorium in 1989, but is now looking to draw a bigger crowd and move back downtown.
"We need to be a part of the downtown Chattanooga scene," Wade says.
He says the museum has about 4,000 visitors a year, but it's looking to capitalize on the tourism scene.
"We're initiating a financial campaign this year, and our Friends of the Museum campaign in order to gain funding to move ourselves downtown," Wade says.
He says it's a move that is crucial to keeping history alive.
"Freedom is not free and if we forget our history, we're sometimes likely to repeat it, and these men have participated and in many cases given their life for this country so that we can be free," Wade says.
He says that's something everyone should be proud of.
"Our heritage is something that we should not forget, and that we should be proud of and should celebrate," Wade says.
The center is run by volunteers and relies solely on donations to keep its doors open.
Wade says the goal is to relocate the center by 2014.
For more info on how you can help, here is the center's contact information:
THE NATIONAL MEDAL OF HONOR MUSEUM OF MILITARY HISTORY: Post Office Box 11467 Chattanooga, Tennessee 37401 (423) 877-2525
THE MUSEUM IS LOCATED AT: Northgate Mall Hwy 153 at Hixson Pike Chattanooga, Tennessee