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Smithsonian Commemorates Veterans Day with<br>Medal of Honor Oak Dedication

November 9, 2010
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and Smithsonian Gardens will honor recipients of the Medal of Honor by dedicating an oak tree on the grounds of the museum during a ceremony Nov. 10. Open to the public, the 9:30 a.m. outdoor ceremony at 12th and Constitution Avenue N.W. will feature Congressional Medal of Honor Society representatives who will join Smithsonian officials in spreading soil around the tree collected from various battlefields in the United States and the world.

Complementing the museum’s “The Price of Freedom: Americans at War” exhibition, the soil samples range from one taken from a Revolutionary War site to earth collected from Iraq and Afghanistan. The 16 soil samples from 11 battle or conflict sites were collected by Smithsonian Gardens staff with assistance from the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, members of the military and the Honorable Kathleen Stephens, U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Korea. “The Price of Freedom: Americans at War” examines major military events and explores the ways that wars have been defining episodes in American history from the Colonial era to the present. The exhibition concludes with a section on the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor in combat.

“Dedicating this tree will help us remind visitors that American history has specific connections with particular landscapes and landmarks around the world, including battlegrounds,” said David Allison, associate director of curatorial affairs for the museum.

“The Medal of Honor Oak is part of the living collections on the National Mall,” said Barbara Faust, director of Smithsonian Gardens. “Our horticultural staff is committed to ensuring that the visitor experience begins at the sidewalk.”

The oak is the national tree of the United States and has been used symbolically by the U.S. military as an emblem of rank and exceptional valor. The original design of the Medal of Honor incorporated oak leaves, and today recipients of medals for heroic deeds, valor or distinguished service receive an oak-leaf cluster, which is a bronze or silver decoration consisting of a twig bearing four oak leaves and three acorns.

Soil Samples

The soil samples collected for the commemoration come from the following sites:
  • Revolutionary War – Guilford County Courthouse, N.C.
  • Civil War – Antietam, Md.
  • Spanish-American War – Manila, Philippines
  • Mexican-American War – Mexico City
  • World War I – France
  • World War II – Iwo Jima, Normandy, Tunisia and Luxembourg
  • Korea – Pusan Perimeter and Incheon Beach
  • Vietnam – China Beach and Hanoi
  • Somalia – Mogadishu
  • Iraq – Balad/Camp Anaconda (Baghdad)
  • Afghanistan – Kabul
The National Museum of American History collects, preserves and displays American heritage in the areas of social, political, cultural, scientific and military history. The museum shines new light on American history after having been dramatically transformed by a two-year renovation. To learn more about the museum, visit For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000, (202) 633-5285 (TTY).

The Smithsonian Gardens’ mission is to enrich the Smithsonian experience through exceptional gardens, horticultural exhibits, collections and education. An integral part of the Smithsonian Institution, Smithsonian Gardens creates and manages the Smithsonian’s outdoor gardens, interiorscapes and horticulture-related collections and exhibits. Established in 1972 to manage the museum grounds, Smithsonian Gardens extends the museums’ exhibits and learning environment in a public setting while shaping visitors’ overall experience of the Smithsonian. For information, contact Smithsonian Gardens at (202) 633-2220 or e-mail: