FORT WAYNE, Ind. — The Veterans National Memorial Shrine and Museum in Fort Wayne, Ind., will be dedicating a new bench in honor of Piqua native Airman 1st Class William H. Pitsenbarger, an Air Force pararescue specialist who died during the Vietnam War while saving others, on Memorial Day, May 25.
The museum, which is located at 2122 O’Day Road in Fort Wayne, Ind., is receiving the bench from Lionsgate, the distributor for “The Last Full Measure,” the movie about Pitsenbarger receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor over 30 years after his death when he saved the lives of members of the U.S. Army’s 1st Infantry Division during the Vietnam War.
Bruce Lehman, a facilitator at the Veterans National Memorial Shrine and Museum, said Lionsgate recently reached out to the museum to donate the bench to them.
“They were interested in providing a memorial at our site to Pitsenbarger,” Lehman said. “It’s a huge honor for us.”
The museum contains exhibits over 2,000 military artifacts, and on its 40-acre memorial grounds, they will soon have a 360-foot-long replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall that’s 80 percent as large as the one in Washington, D.C.
“We have purchased the original traveling wall,” Lehman said. “It will be here permanently.”
The Veterans National Memorial Shrine and Museum will be dedicating the bench in Pitsenbarger’s honor on the grounds on Memorial Day, May 25, at 1:30 p.m. Attendees will be asked to social distance between one another outside. The ceremony will feature the Warrior Breed motorcycle club ride-in, a description of Pitsenbarger’s actions, and the dedication of the bench in Pitsenbarger’s honor.
Once the museum gets the replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the bench will be moved to in front of the wall where Pitsenbarger’s name is on the memorial.
Lehman, who is also a veteran of the Vietnam War, said he was inspired to study Pitsenbarger’s story, saying, “It’s heartbreaking.” Lehman was struck by Pitsenbarger’s self-sacrifice, particularly how Pitsenbarger did not have to go on the rescue mission that eventually cost him his life, but Pitsenbarger chose to help anyway.
“For me, it’s been an emotional ride,” Lehman said. Lehman also plans to visit Covington sometime to visit Pitsenbarger’s grave site at the Miami Memorial Park Cemetery.
Lehman said the founder of the museum, Eric Scott, was a World War I veteran who began the museum so no veteran would be forgotten.
“He swore if he ever got out of there, he would build a memorial,” Lehman said.
The museum is run by volunteers, and it features displays from the Revolutionary War to the current wars.
“It’s just an honor to do things for veterans,” Lehman said.
For more information about the museum, visit honoringforever.org.
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