Carlyle Blakeney, the vice chairman of the National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation, left, and Medal of Honor recipient retired Marine Maj. Gen. James Livingston show a map of the location for a planned Medal of Honor Museum to South Carolina state lawmakers during a Feb. 4 House subcommittee meeting in Columbia, S.C. Organizers asked the state to provide $11 million for the $100 million museum to be built at the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum in Mount Pleasant, S.C. (Bruce Smith / AP)
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COLUMBIA, S.C. — Organizers of a $100 million National Medal of Honor Museum on the South Carolina coast are asking state lawmakers to provide $11 million for the project.
“This will bring great exposure to the state of South Carolina. This will put us on the map in a way we are not now as a national and international location,” retired Marine Maj. Gen. James Livingston, the state’s only Medal of Honor recipient, told a House budget subcommittee.
Plans for the museum at the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum in Mount Pleasant were announced in 2012. The land is being leased to the museum by the state for 99 years for $1 a year.
Livingston asked lawmakers to provide $1 million in initial support and then $2 million a year for five years. He said the project has been extensively studied and a business plan developed.
He added the location on Charleston Harbor is fitting because the Medal of Honor was established during the Civil War, which began with the bombardment of Fort Sumter in the harbor.
A master museum plan envisions, among other attractions, a uniform collection, a large format theater where visitors can learn about sacrifices for freedom, a Great Hall honoring the recipients and an interactive media gallery where visitors can hear each recipient’s story.
“Think about it as a place where young Americans or older Americans can come in the front door and come out re-energized about what we are as a people,” Livingston said. “It’s not about guns and uniforms. It’s about a message to reinforce what we should be as a country.”
State Rep. Chip Limehouse, the chairman of the subcommittee, said getting the money won’t be easy. “That’s a big ask, particularly in this budget year, but you don’t get it if you don’t ask,” he said.
The state money would be added to funds raised through a nationwide fundraising campaign by the nonprofit National Medal of Honor Museum Foundation.
Livingston said there are only 76 surviving recipients of the nation’s highest award for valor and only six are from World War II.
“Our intent is to open this museum before we lose those final six members of the greatest generation,” he said. “That is one reason we are pushing hard.”
The lawmakers also heard about the Medal of Honor Character Development Program which draws on the experiences of the recipients to teach relationship skills based on such things as commitment, courage and integrity.
The curriculum is in use in public schools in four South Carolina counties as well as schools in Georgia, Tennessee and Pennsylvania.
Limehouse said he will draft legislation requiring the South Carolina Education Department to implement the curriculum statewide.
“I have often as a legislator thought about how we get character development and how do we get courtesy and manners into our schools where maybe children are not getting it at home,” he said.