Congress has approved a bill that allows proceeds from the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center Commemorative Coin to be used to help retire the museum's $15 million debt.
Sponsored by U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Moultrie, the bill has been sent to the president for his signature after approval in the Senate and House. The bill also was supported by U.S. Reps. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany, and Lynn Westmoreland, R-Newnan.
Using the coin's proceeds to ease the financial burden of the $108 million facility will allow the museum to wrap up its debt and focus on operations, said Carmen Cavezza, chairman of the National Infantry Foundation, the nonprofit organization which operates the museum.
"We've been working on it for a while," Cavezza said. "We potentially could get $3.2 million from coin sales."
Congress approved the coin in 2008 as part of the National Infantry Museum & Soldier Center Commemorative Act. The act authorized the U.S. Mint to issue up to 350,000 silver dollar coins to commemorate the legacy of the infantry and the establishment of the National Infantry Museum & Soldier Center. The coin has a "Follow Me" soldier on one side and two crossed rifles on the back. The silver proof and silver uncirculated coins cost $54.95 and $49.95, respectively. The foundation gets $10 from each coin sold to benefit the operation of the museum. So far, the foundation has sold about 200,000 coins.
"It used to be you had to use that money and put it in an endowment, but we need it to pay off our debt," Cavezza said. "We went in and got the support of the delegation to change that, so we could use it at our discretion, one reason being it is to apply toward the debt of the museum. That is what that's all about."
The bill approved by Congress was an amendment to the 2008 act to create the coin.
Cavezza said the museum has about $15 million in debt and $6 million in pledges. "They are good pledges, but it will be a while before they come to fruition," he said.
The total also includes some work the foundation wants to complete to improve some galleries.
Bishop said the National Infantry Museum is a tribute to the infantry's legacy of valor and sacrifice.
"Its many exhibits and displays honor infantry soldiers -- from those who crossed the icy Delaware River with George Washington to those serving in Afghanistan today -- for their selfless service to our country. Using the coin's proceeds to ease the financial burden of the National Infantry Museum and Solder Center will allow the museum to continue to preserve these heroes' stories for future generations."
Coins will be available until the end of this year. You can buy them at the National Infantry Museum's store, 1775 Legacy Way, Columbus, or purchase online at www.usmint.gov.
For information, call the museum at 706-685-5800.