New museum focuses on veterans, not the wars they fought

New veterans museum focuses on the soldier

The new National Veterans Memorial and Museum in Columbus, Ohio, pays homage to the more than 40 million men and women who have served in the United States military. There are displays you might expect, like Civil War-era hats, first aid kits dating back 200 years, and boots from a fallen soldier in Iraq. But Colin Powell – the honorary chair of the museum's board of directors – said it's about so much more.

"I wasn't planning to get on another museum board but once I came out here when it was under construction…I had to be a part of it. This one is unique in that it focuses on the individual soldier, sailor, airman and Marines. It's not about the battle, not about the generals, it's about folks who actually get the job done," Powell told CBS News correspondent Chip Reid. "It is a quiet place where the focus is totally on the individual G.I."

G.I.s like Thom Tran, who was shot in the head four days into his first combat mission in Iraq.

Tran tells his story of service in video exhibits throughout the museum.

"A lot of veterans come back and they feel like they don't have anyone to share their story with. And this is proof that they can share that story," Tran said.

There are interactive exhibits, including one that shows the number and location of U.S. troops throughout the decades. There are stories of enlisting; of sacrifice; of coming home – from the famous to the anonymous.

"I never would have thought anybody would be interested in my story, but why shouldn't they? I gave 17 years to this country, and I think anybody that's worn the uniform deserves to have their story told," said Jaspen Boothe.

The museum doesn't shy away from some of the military's thornier issues.

When Boothe was discharged after a cancer diagnosis, she found there were no services for her or her son.

"I took an oath 17 years ago to never leave a fallen comrade and once I saw that there was a void that became my next mission," Boothe said. "So I started a non-profit organization called Final Salute Inc. and our mission is to provide homeless women veterans and their children with safe and suitable housing."

Col. Tom Moe was a POW in Vietnam for more than five years. His daughter was an infant when he left and six when he returned.

"And we had two more kids after I came home, boys, and they've each had three kids. And I look at, I cherish my whole family but my boys and my grandkids would have never been born had I not come home," Moe said.

Powell hopes the museum appeals to civilians and veterans alike.

"We've only had about one percent of the population involved in military operations…So it is important that the other 99 percent know their sacrifice and why they are sacrificing and what that sacrifice is like," Powell said.

Of the more than 40 million Americans who have served in the military, about half are alive today.