National Veterans Memorial and Museum
One of Columbus’ newest attractions, the National Veterans Memorial and Museum, located on the downtown riverfront, is the only place in America dedicated to telling the stories of veterans of all branches of military service over the course of all conflicts. The building itself is an architectural masterpiece, winning accolades from Architectural Digest for its curving lines and unique cast concrete construction.
Exhibits in the succinct circular space take place in a series of alcoves, where the different parts of a service member's journey are told, from enlistment to swearing-in, to training camp, to wartime service to coming home. While there are a few artifacts, they tend toward the personal (letters from home and tokens of good luck,) and the experience of military service is explored primarily through personal stories. Video interviews from a diverse array of veterans narrate the way, leading to a powerful understanding of the sacrifice veterans make, as well as the similarities and differences of their military experiences.
The spiral nature of the memorial and museum's layout lends to a progression of storytelling, where you can learn more about individual veterans, like Columbus' own John Glenn, who was a catalyst for the creation of the memorial before his death in 2016. The final stop on the first floor is a circular catwalk with views of an enormous four-sided screen sharing in-depth reflections on service from veterans. The lower level has space for rotating exhibitions.
The top floor is lit with color-infused light coming from representations from medal bars from each conflict American military members have served in. It's a reflective space, with a powerful double-mirrored remembrance gallery that puts you in the place of a military family member receiving a flag at the service of a fallen service member. An outdoor rooftop area presents an amphitheater surrounded by the skyline of the city, where military homecoming ceremonies will take place.
Outdoors features a 2.5-acre memorial grove, where visitors can spend some time in silent contemplation and reflection before returning to their daily lives. A grove of elm trees, a long stone wall with three waterfalls, and a reflecting pool provide a peaceful end to the visit.
If military service is part of your or your family's history, you can leave your own story behind at the museum. The Share Your Story space features a story booth where you can answer a series of prompts and questions to create a short video to record your story.