Texas billionaire and former presidential candidate H. Ross Perot has donated millions of dollars for a planned $100 million National Medal of Honor Museum on the South Carolina coast, museum organizers announced Friday.
Perot visited the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum on Charleston Harbor to discuss the museum which will enshrine the 3,489 recipients of the nation's highest honor for valor.
"It's been my privilege to support the military for a long, long time," said Perot as he shared anecdotes about how he has worked with veterans, wounded vets and prisoners of war over the years.
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"I can go on forever about the wonderful things these people do and how much they do for us and how we do almost nothing for them in comparison," Perot said.
Rudi Gresham, a former top official with the Department of Veteran Affairs and a member of the Medal of Honor Museum Foundation board said that when he became a member of the board he called Perot.
"The next day he said `I will send you a check' he was so excited," Gresham said. Planners would not say specifically how much Perot gave but Gresham did confirm it was in the millions of dollars.
"Nobody, and I mean, nobody, has done more for Medal of Honor recipients in this country than Ross Perot," Gresham added. "That man has given for a fact that I know over $376 million to veterans and military people."
A fundraiser is planned for Dallas later this month to raise more money for the museum.
Two years ago, organizers announced plans for the new museum on high ground to replace a smaller museum now open aboard the World War II-era aircraft carrier USS Yorktown berthed at Patriots Point on Charleston Harbor.
Plans call for a 100,000-square-foot museum with galleries, a chapel and rooms for classrooms, meetings and conferences. A master plan envisions, among other attractions, a uniform collection, a large format theater with video screens and a Great Hall honoring the medal recipients.
The first medal was awarded during the Civil War which began with the 1861 bombardment of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor.
"This museum will preserve and tell the story of those individuals who placed service above self to accomplish the extraordinary," said Robert Wilburn, the president and CEO of the Medal of Honor Museum Foundation.
He said if everything goes according to schedule, ground will be broken late next year and the museum could open to the public in four years.