Legislation introduced to place VA historical archive in Dayton

New center could create dozens of jobs, attract thousands of visitors



Ohio’s senators, with U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, have introduced a bill to permanently anchor a Veterans Affairs historical center in Dayton, a site expected to become a national destination attracting thousands of in-person and virtual visitors annually, employing dozens of people.

The Veterans Affairs Centennial and Heritage Act of 2024 would collect and preserve VA-related art, artifacts, photographs, records, and other historic materials for permanent preservation in Dayton.

“Establishing this center in statute helps ensure that the vision of the VA history center is accomplished,” Turner, a Dayton Republican, said in an interview Wednesday.

Proponents have already secured more than $3 million for the construction of the center, he added.

With this legislation, the vision for a Dayton-based center will shift from a policy to a program, he said. “I believe this will be a destination center as the VA not only tells the story of its history, but tells the story of our veterans, their individual journeys and our efforts to honor them.”

The National VA History Center will unite public education with the collecting and displaying of historic VA artifacts and archival records, advocates believe.

“The National VA History Center is a great honor for the Dayton community and Ohio veterans and recognizes our state’s unique history of service,” Sen. Sherrod Brown said in a statement. “This legislation will ensure that this center will be permanently in Dayton doing the important work of collecting and preserving the history of countless servicemembers and honoring the Dayton’s VA Medical Center’s 150-year history of serving Ohio veterans.”

The VA has been on board with the idea for some time.

In 2022, VA officials said plans were then progressing for an estimated $100 million National VA History Center in two historic Dayton VA campus buildings: the Old Headquarters and the Clubhouse. The two buildings are among the oldest on the 450-acre campus, dating to 1871 and 1881.

“This is the right place at the right time to bring together all the magnificent history of the Department of Veterans Affairs and to reflect upon the service that veterans have provided to this nation,” Deputy VA Secretary Donald Remy said in an October 2022 visit to the Dayton VA campus.

“Founded in the wake of the Civil War, the Dayton VA Medical Center was one of our nation’s first hospitals for American soldiers,” said Sen. J.D. Vance. “This institution is steeped in an incredible history, and I am proud to sponsor legislation to honor the crucial role the Department of Veterans Affairs and its predecessors have played for over a century in providing the care our veterans need. I’m incredibly grateful that this history center will be located here in Dayton and that it will advance the history of this Department for generations to come.”

“The bill honors veterans by helping to preserve and promote the history of America’s support for veterans. It also ensures that Ohio will be central to the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2030,” said Jeff Hoagland, president and chief executive of the Dayton Development Coalition.

Dayton businessman Bill DeFries is involved as president of the American Veterans Heritage Center.

“The AVHC and National VA History Center Foundation have been fighting with Congressman Turner for more than 10 years to have the History Center on our Historical Dayton Soldiers Home Campus,” DeFries said in a statement from Turner’s office.

The Dayton VA campus is one of the three original VA hospitals in the United States. Dayton received its first Civil War veterans in 1867.

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