Editor’s Note: During this period of social distancing, Group Tour magazine will continue to provide group travel inspiration. Many attractions and destinations are closed at this time; please contact them directly for updated information.

The National Veterans Memorial and Museum honors, connects, educates and inspires visitors through personal stories and firsthand accounts of veteran experiences.

While the structure in downtown Columbus, Ohio, is an architectural wonder, it is the veterans telling their stories in their own voices through film, photos, letters, multimedia presentations, personal artifacts and interactive exhibits that make the museum the marvel it is.

National Veterans Memorial and Museum
National Veterans Memorial and Museum, Columbus, Ohio
Credit: Brad Feinfnopf

The Great Hall, an open, inviting space with a large-scale photographic installation featuring images of veterans in military uniform and back home after service, sets up the museum experience. It spans more than 50,000 square feet.

Visitors embark on a narrative journey, following exhibitions that focus on the people — the soldier, sailor, airman, Marine, Coastguardsman and their families — through 14 thematic alcoves. The alcoves range from answering the call to duty to life after military service.

Visitors have opportunities to open footlockers to hear directly from veterans about their experiences, and lift and touch gear including backpacks and helmets to better understand the physical rigors of service.

The core exhibition provides a timeline of U.S. history alongside the stories of 25 service members and historical documents.

“I am honored to stand at the helm of this institution, to continue to hear the stories not only of those displayed, but of visitors who have served,” said retired Lt. Gen. Michael Ferriter, U.S. Army, president and CEO. “The honesty, humanity and selflessness within these walls are amazing and will impactfully touch all who experience this national treasure.”

The view of Columbus from the museum is extraordinary, particularly from the rooftop, said Tamara K. Brown, marketing and communications manager.

Groups may also enjoy visiting the 2½-acre Memorial Grove, designed for contemplation and reflection. Anchored by a grove of elm trees, the space has a 325-foot stone wall, featuring three cascades of water and a reflecting pool, creating a space for remembrance, inspiration and the recognition of service.

National Veterans Memorial and Museum
National Veterans Memorial and Museum, Columbus, Ohio
Credit: National Veterans Memorial and Museum

“Veterans enjoy seeing themselves in stories shared by the National Veterans Memorial and Museum,” Brown said. “They love to talk about their experiences: taking the oath, going through basic training, talking about their jobs and the places they served. ‘Connecting’ for them means revisiting some of the most memorable experiences from their lives in uniform. They are justifiably proud of their service and enjoy sharing their stories.”

Brown said non-veteran visitors enjoy seeing the human side of the military.

“‘Connecting’ for them also means learning,” she said. “It’s informative for those not familiar with the military to see how military members live, work, socialize and transition to and from the military.

The museum offers private, guided tours of both the core exhibition and special exhibits.

Motorcoach parking is complimentary. Veteran and active-duty military members receive free admission.

For more information, call 614-362-2800 or visit nationalvmm.org.