HOLLYWOOD — American Indian Veterans Memorial Inc. (AIVMI) President Stephen Bowers and his wife, Elizabeth Bates, kicked off a major effort Nov. 12 to raise $10 million toward building a Native American veterans’ exhibit at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The AIVMI initiative began in 2010 as an effort to recognize Native Americans’ contributions in the U.S. military with a statue near the memorial, but it has evolved into a campaign to build the Education Center at the Wall.
The project will cost $80 million.
The first check, for $120,000, came from the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood and was presented by Chairman James E. Billie and President Mitchell Cypress onstage at Hard Rock Live in Hollywood before a concert featuring 1970s groups Three Dog Night and America.
“The Education Center will tell the story of Native American’s involvement in wars,” Bowers said. “The center can tell about it more than a statue can. People can go and learn what their Tribe’s contribution was in wars and the significant part we played.”
Chairman Billie served two tours in Vietnam starting in 1965 and President Cypress served in Germany from 1968-70.
“It means a lot to Native Americans to be recognized for serving,” President Cypress said. “I’m an American citizen; I like freedom and I want the next generations to have it so I served to protect the younger generations. It’s good that everyone here saw the big check go to the initiative.”
Ticket sales from the sold-out concert and food and beverage proceeds went directly to fundraising efforts.
“Not a whole lot of people know about it, so this event will not only raise money but will also raise awareness for the project,” Bowers said.
AIVMI is collaborating with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF) to build the Education Center at the Wall, which will be located close to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial. To keep it from overshadowing the nearby memorials, the center will be built underground. The Native American exhibit will highlight the bravery, contributions and sacrifices of the American Indian, Alaska Native and Pacific Islander veterans.
In addition to raising funds for the project, AIVMI aims to collect missing photographs of all Native Americans who fell during the Vietnam War. During the conflict, 227 men from 30 states and territories served in all branches of the military and made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. The organization is also seeking photographs and remembrances of those who served in all of America’s wars.
For information or to donate to AIVMI, visit www.aivmi.org.