By The Honorable Walter H. Rice

Two thousand twelve was a banner year for the American Veterans Heritage Center, its members and its volunteers.
In May, the Dayton VA rededicated the beautifully restored, historic Protestant Chapel on the VA campus, Lacking only the restoration of its beautiful pipe organ, the chapel is now “open for business,” available to local faith based institutions for holding services and other special events.

Work on the restoration of the historic Grotto is proceeding, with the hope that we can soon rededicate this beautiful space to our veterans and the citizens of the greater Dayton area, in a form not a bit reduced from its late nineteenth century grandeur, when the Grotto was a tourist attraction for persons from miles around.

This past fall saw the campus designated a National Historic Landmark by the Department of Interior, recognizing the campus’ special place in the transformation of care for our veterans from the Soldiers Home era to its present mission of providing quality medical care for all our nation’s veterans. A public commemoration of this event is tentatively scheduled for mid-spring.

Lastly, much work was done, both publicly and behind the scenes, in our continuing efforts to have the Dayton campus recognized as the site for the VA National Archives. When this becomes a reality, the campus will be the repository of records of veterans from all wars, thus making Greater Dayton and our beautiful campus an attraction for genealogists and history buffs throughout the country.

It was a wonderful year for our dedicated volunteers, without whom the AVHC would not exist, as they invited the community to attend the annual Patriot Freedom Festival, an event that grows in attendance and variety of attractions each year. Two 5K runs/walks were held on campus this year, in May and November, again with the invaluable help of our volunteers. Many events are planned for 2013, each of which will be announced in advance in this bulletin.

Board member, Curt Dalton, completed and published his history of the VA campus, “in stereo,” relying on old stereo slides from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, enhanced by 3D glasses to bring that source material into full, vibrant view. These books are already collectors’ items and represent the very best (and most picturesque and colorful) history of the VA campus yet compiled.

Two of our Board members, Kathy Hayes and Jim Snyder, were both nominated and installed as members of the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame, honors both long delayed and richly deserved.

As successful as 2012 proved to be, we are confident that 2013 will see even more accomplishments: holding a public event to celebrate our campus being recognized as a National Historic Landmark, welcoming the public at our annual Patriot Freedom Festival in May and the rededication of the Grotto in mid-spring. AVHC’s priorities for this coming year include the development of the Vets-Town concept. This will provide entrepreneurial veterans with training and guidance and encourage them to incubate their businesses so they may thrive on their own. Finally, to development of a Walk of Fame, following the identical path as laid out in the late 1860’s at our campus and selling bricks to line its borders, bricks that will be donated by the veterans themselves, their family members and friends to memorialize all who have served honorably in the armed forces of this country.

While 2012 was a wonderful year for AVHC, we confidently predict, if I might speak colloquially, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!”