MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (AP) _ Amid the sound of battle cries and machine gun fire, the stories of the nation's war heroes are now being told in a renovated museum aboard a moored aircraft carrier.
The refurbished $1.5 million Medal of Honor Museum is set to open Memorial Day weekend aboard the USS Yorktown on Charleston Harbor as a tribute to the 3,444 recipients of the nation's highest military honor.
``It was absolutely breathtaking _ the tightness in the chest and the water in the eye,'' said Gary Littrell, a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient who saw the completed museum for the first time Monday.
At the museum, visitors enter a hall to a multimedia exhibit on the meaning of freedom narrated by Tom Brokaw. Then, they can see the medal itself and learn some of its history before entering the Tunnel of Combat.
Here, as visitors pass, they trip sensors that trigger sounds and pictures, which seek to replicate something of the chaos of battle in eras from the Civil War to modern-day conflicts in the Middle East.
One can hear the battle cries of Union infantry charging across a Civil War battlefield; the staccato of a World War I machine gun followed by the grunt of a soldier being hit; the rumble of guns from a World War II battleship. As the sounds erupt, a picture showing the scene lights up, then darkens as a visitor passes.
Littrell, president of the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, won the medal while serving in Vietnam in 1970. He helped lead a besieged battalion during a four-day assault near Dak Seang.
Visitors to the museum can learn about the soldiers whose actions earned them the honor. In the Hall of Heroes, interactive displays tell the stories of Medal of Honor recipients. Visitors also can use computers to find out more about the recipients.
``We wanted to stay away from living recipients and we wanted to stay away from our so-called Hollywood recipients _ Audie Murphy, Alvin York, Pappy Boyington, those guys,'' Littrell said. ``We see what I consider the average Medal of Honor recipient.''
David Burnette, executive director of the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum, where the Yorktown is moored, said the renovation was badly needed.
``All we had was a big room with a beautiful carpet and a bunch of names on a wall,'' he said. ``We didn't tell any stories.''
Museum designer Rodger Motiska of DJS Design of Charlotte, N.C., said the design was intended to go beyond the couple of paragraphs in a Medal of Honor citation.
``We thought instead of telling the story from the recipient's perspective, let's tell it from the view of a third person _ a mother or a daughter or a sister or a buddy in a foxhole,'' he said.
Other stories can be told in the future simply by switching out the multimedia elements.
``Someday I'll be a deceased recipient and whoever is running the museum may say, 'Let's take him,''' Littrell said. ``We want the world to know there are more recipients then those pictured.''