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A groundbreaking is scheduled for Wednesday morning near the Vietnam Memorial Wall for a multimillion dollar center that will serve as a repository of the stories of the men and women who served in Southeast Asia.
But it will also serve as a temporary memorial for the fallen of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, according to Jan Scruggs, founder and president of the Vietnam Memorial Wall Fund, which is backing the project.
"The veterans of Vietnam know what it is like to wait for a memorial -- a healing place -- to be authorized and constructed. Today’s heroes shouldn’t have to wait," Scruggs said in a statement. "Our goal is to have The Education Center at The Wall open in time to welcome home our last troops returning from Afghanistan."
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, will be among those present for the ceremonial event. Actual construction on the center won’t begin until the memorial fund raises $85 million needed to start.
The fund has so far raised $47 million.
The center will include a "Wall of Faces," which will include photographs of all 58,282 men and women whose names are inscribed on the Memorial Wall, according to the center’s website. Another feature of the center will be an evolving and changing display of the more than 400,000 personal items that have been left at the Wall, and collected by volunteers, over the past 30 years.
"The Education Center at The Wall is a place where important values -- duty, service, courage and integrity -- will be celebrated," he said.
Also scheduled to attend the groundbreaking on Wednesday is Michael McClung, a Marine veteran of Vietnam whose daughter, Maj. Megan McClung, was killed in action in Iraq, and Virgil Deckard, a Vietnam veteran whose brother Larry was added to the Wall this year and whose son, Sgt. Matthew Deckard, died in Iraq in 2005.
The event is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Henry Bacon Drive and Constitution Avenue, NW, across from the Vietnam Wall.