Medal of Honor Memorial (Military Park)
The Indianapolis Medal of Honor Memorial, located along the Indiana Central Canal at the edge of Military Park, is one of the nation's few memorials dedicated to honoring all of the Medal of Honor recipients. As the US military’s highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor endures as a timeless distinction that illuminates the nation’s heroes. Thus, at the edge of Military Park, the Medal of Honor memorial features 27 glass panels in concrete bases arranged among 15 walls, all of which are illuminated by an intricate lighting system. The 15 walls of the memorial represent armed conflicts in which the Medal of Honor was awarded. At the time of the memorial’s dedication on Memorial Day in 1999, there were 3,436 names etched into the curved glass walls.
Backstory and Context
History of the Memorial
The creation of the Medal of Honor Memorial dates back to June in 1998, when a New York Times reporter visited the annual meeting of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society in New York. The article caught the attention of John Hodowal, chairman of the Indianapolis-based energy company IPALCO Enterprises, and his wife, Caroline. The two were moved by the stories featured in the New York Times article, and the Indianapolis couple decided that they would need to do something to bring these heroes greater recognition.
Working with IPALCO staff, John and Caroline Hodowal discovered that there wasn’t a memorial paying tribute to the 3,436 Medal of Honor recipients. This startling discovery inspired John and Caroline to invite as many Medal of Honor recipients as they could to Indianapolis and build a memorial to honor all of the Medal of Honor recipients in US history.
During Memorial Day weekend in 1999, the last Memorial Day of the millennium, 96 Medal of Honor recipients arrived in Indianapolis to view the unveiling of the nation’s first Medal of Honor Memorial.
Significance of the Site at Military Park
The location of the Medal of Honor Memorial, on the north bank of the canal in Military Park, holds great significance in Indianapolis. As the oldest park in Indianapolis, Military Park dates back to the first documented celebration of Independence Day on July 4, 1822.
Before the Civil War, the grounds of Military Park were used to train local militias, including soldiers who fought in the Black Hawk War in 1836. In 1852, Military Park hosted the Indiana State Fair, and during the Civil War, the camp was a training ground and a camp for Union soldiers. With all of this profound history, it makes sense that the Medal of Honor Memorial would endure as a beautiful site on the park grounds.
Design of the Memorial
The Medal of Honor Memorial features 27 curved glass panels planted in concrete bases, and each panel is between 7 and 10 feet tall. The 15 walls of the memorial represent 15 armed conflicts dating back to the Civil War, and although the memorial doesn’t represent all US conflicts, it does represent conflicts in which a soldier (or soldiers) received the Medal of Honor.
In addition to the 3,436 names etched onto the walls, the Memorial also includes information on the recipient. When the sun sets, an intricate lighting system illuminates the memorial, and these lights correspond with a 30-minute audio track that includes war stories about the recipients and their acts.1