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Project To Build Vietnam War Museum On National Mall Shuttered Amid Allegations Of Malfeasance
A proposed $130 million project to build an “interactive learning center” adjacent to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall has been terminated, the Virginia-based nonprofit organization behind the project announced on Sept. 21 in a press release.
The decision to shutter the Education Center of the Wall marks the culmination of a tumultuous 18-year saga chronicled in a recent Task & Purpose report based on interviews with multiple inside sources who alleged that the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF) continued soliciting donations for the project long after it became obvious that it would never come to fruition.
“I have advocated ending this campaign since 2015,” said Jan Scruggs, the estranged founder of VVMF, who first conceived of the Education Center in 2000 and retired as president and CEO of the organization four years ago. “Task & Purpose played a crucial role.”
Scruggs and others who had been involved in the Education Center campaign over the years say VVMF still has a lot of explaining to do and foresee legal battles over the tens of millions of dollars the organization has received from multinational corporations, foreign governments, veterans service organizations, philanthropist groups, and countless Vietnam veterans and Gold Star families, many of whom also contributed photographs and other mementos that were to be featured in exhibits planned for the center.
Artist rendering of the Education Center at the Wall from aboveImage via the National Capital Planning Commission website
“They owe the donor community some hard answers,” said a Vietnam veteran who volunteered as a fundraising committee leader with VVMF for nearly a decade and donated $60,000 himself. “Why didn’t they pull the plug on this project that everyone knew at least three years ago wasn’t going to happen?”
VVMF board of directors chairman John Dibble said in the press release that the organization had “pursued every single possible avenue and opportunity” to complete the Education Center at the Wall, which would have been a 25,000-square-foot underground facility featuring museum exhibits and multimedia installations telling the story of the Vietnam War. One exhibit would have displayed images of the more than 58,000 fallen service members whose names are etched on Maya Lin’s famous Wall.
The press release stated that $27 million of the $40 million in donations the organization received for the Education Center at the Wall “has been spent on construction design, exhibit planning, awareness building, and preliminary work necessary for specific exhibits within the project.” The remaining $17 million was “specifically restricted to hard construction, which may be returned after discussions with those donors.” In other words, every dollar that the organization was not contractually obligated to return if the project was shuttered is gone, according to VVMF.
Artist rendering of Education Center at the WallImage via National Capital Planning Commission website
The organization has not replied to numerous phone calls and emails.
“How exactly was the money spent?” said the former fundraising committee leader. “How much is actually left in the coffers? How much of it was spent to pay officers’ salaries? And why did they ask two senators to endorse an extension if they were this close to pulling the plug? It’s unconscionable.”
The source was referring to legislation introduced last month by U.S. senators Steve Daines and Tammy Duckworth that would would have granted VVMF a four-year extension to continue raising donations for the center beyond October of this year, when its previous extension expires. The original bill authorizing VVMF to build the center on the National Mall was signed by President George W. Bush in 2003. Several sources said it became increasingly apparent that the project was doomed in the weeks following a 2012 ceremonial groundbreaking on the National Mall when VVMF discovered that it would cost about $50 million more than what was estimated at the time of the event.
Task & Purpose was contacted by two more former VVMF employees after publishing our expose on Wednesday. One, who worked for the organization between 2010-2012, claimed that he saw multiple development officers fired after they figured out “there was no money left.” The other expressed remorse for all the people who have poured time, money, and effort into the project, often under the false assumption that ground would soon be broken.
Jan C. Scruggs, visits the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, Monday, Nov. 9, 2015.AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
“It's so sad,” the former employee said in an email. “Mothers, fathers, and family members of those whose names are on The Wall are donating in memory of their fallen and, unless that money was earmarked by the donor to be for care and maintenance of The Wall, it was being mismanaged, spent irresponsibly, or put into Ed Center planning (at least while I was there).”
According to Scruggs, the only money restricted for “hard construction” came from major donors, including the governments of Australia, Singapore, and South Korea, the Lilly Endowment, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Hard Rock Cafe, which is owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Steve Bowers, an American Indian and Vietnam veteran, who negotiated the Hard Rock donation — of $110,000 — told Task & Purpose that they now intend to use the money to build statues honoring veterans in Florida. “We don’t mean to be Indian givers," he said, "but if they’re not holding up their end of the bargain, we want our refund.”
Moments before Army Staff Sgt. David Bellavia went back into the house, journalist Michael Ware said he was "pacing like a caged tiger ... almost like he was talking to himself."
"I distinctly remember while everybody else had taken cover temporarily, there out in the open on the street — still exposed to the fire from the roof — was David Bellavia," Ware told Task & Purpose on Monday. "David stopped pacing, he looked up and sees that the only person still there on the street is me. And I'm just standing there with my arms folded.
"He looked up from the pacing, stared straight into my eyes, and said 'Fuck it.' And I stared straight back at him and said 'Fuck it,'" Ware said. "And that's when I knew, we were both going back in that house."
Former Army Special Forces Maj. Matthew Golsteyn will plead not guilty to a charge of murder for allegedly shooting an unarmed Afghan man whom a tribal leader had identified as a Taliban bomb maker, his attorney said.
Golsteyn will be arraigned on Thursday morning at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Phillip Stackhouse told Task & Purpose.
No date has been set for his trial yet, said Lt. Col. Loren Bymer, a spokesman for U.S. Army Special Operations Command.
John Wick is back, and he's here to stay. It doesn't matter how many bad guys show up to try to collect on that bounty.
With John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum, the titular hitman, played by 54-year-old Keanu Reeves, continues on a blood-soaked hyper-stylized odyssey of revenge: first for his slain dog, then his wrecked car, then his destroyed house, then ... well, honestly it's hard to keep track of exactly what Wick is avenging by this point, or the body count he's racked up in the process.
Though we do know that the franchise has raked in plenty of success at the box office: just a week after it's May 17 release, the third installment in director Chad Stahleski's series took in roughly $181 million, making it even more successful than its two wildly popular prequels 2014's John Wick, and 2017's John Wick: Chapter 2.
And, more importantly, Reeves' hitman is well on his way to becoming one of the greatest action movie heroes in recent memory. Few (if any) other action flicks have succeeded in creating a mind-blowing avant garde ballet out of a dozen well-dressed gunmen who get shot, choked, or stabbed with a pencil by a pissed off hitman who just wants to return to retirement.
But for all the over-the-top acrobatics, fight sequences, and gun-porn (see: the sommelier), what makes the series so enthralling, especially for the service members and vets in the audience, is that there are some refreshing moments of realism nestled under all of that gun fu. Wrack your brain and try to remember the last time you saw an action hero do a press check during a shootout, clear a jam, or actually, you know, reload, instead of just hip-firing 300 rounds from an M16 nonstop. It's cool, we'll wait.
As it turns out, there's a good reason for the caliber of gun-play in John Wick. One of the franchise's secret weapons is a professional three-gun shooter named Taran Butler, who told Task & Purpose he can draw and hit three targets in 0.67 seconds from 10 yards. And if you've watched any of the scores of videos he's uploaded to social media over the years, it's pretty clear that this isn't idle boasting.
The Navy's electromagnetic railgun is undergoing what officials described as "essentially a shakedown" of critical systems before finally installing a tactical demonstrator aboard a surface warship, the latest sign that the once-beleaguered supergun may actually end up seeing combat.
That pretty much means this is could be the last set of tests before actually slapping this bad boy onto a warship, for once.
The Justice Department has accused Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) of illegally using campaign funds to pay for extramarital affairs with five women.
Hunter, who fought in the Iraq War as a Marine artillery officer, and his wife Margaret were indicated by a federal jury on Aug. 21, 2018 for allegedly using up to $250,000 in campaign funds for personal use.
In a recent court filing, federal prosecutors accused Hunter of using campaign money to pay for a variety of expenses involved with his affairs, ranging from a $1,008 hotel bill to $7 for a Sam Adams beer.