A nonprofit that plans to expand a military museum outside Fort Carson's main gate must raise $5.5 million in order to break ground on time this spring.
The bigger museum, located outside Gate 1, will pay homage to each unit that has served at Fort Carson since the post was founded in 1942 and focus on wars since World War I, said retired Army Lt. Gen. Ed Soriano, president of the Mountain Post Historical Association.
"As the war begins to draw down, we don't want to forget what these kids have done," Soriano said of the post's soldiers who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. "We cannot let these kids go unrecognized."
The association has already raised $500,000.
Additional money has been pledged to the project, and Soriano hopes the donors come through as the museum's target ground-breaking date nears.
The museum's budget was cut to $6 million in 2011 from an initial proposal of more than $18 million. The change came after the Army pulled nearly $10 million from the project due to budget constraints.
"This is a tough time to be raising money anywhere," Soriano said. "We totally understand the economic situation today. We're about to start a very concerted effort to raise the funds."
The association is considering five construction bids and is expected to award a contract for the museum expansion in December or January.
Weather and big donors permitting, the museum will open its doors in the spring of 2014.
Artifacts that will be housed in the 12,800-square-foot museum currently sit in a smaller temporary museum located next to the post's visitors center.
The smaller museum houses a variety of military artifacts that will be featured in the bigger museum, including World War I and Vietnam War memorabilia and the plug that concealed the hole in the ground where Saddam Hussein was hiding when he was captured by 4th Infantry Division soldiers in late 2003 near Tikrit, Iraq.
Also on display is a money box that once contained $750,000 in U.S. currency that Hussein had in his possession when captured.
"We want people to bring kids there, and not just young kids, but high school kids, college kids, to learn a little bit about history," Soriano said.
The temporary museum, which opened in the summer of 2011, cost $750,000 to construct and was paid for with Army funds.