NBA team owners Michael Heisley of the Memphis Grizzlies and Peter Holt of the San Antonio Spurs have made the largest private donations toward a project that will honor the 58,000 veterans killed during the Vietnam War and be located on the site of the Washington, D.C. memorial.

Holt, a decorated Vietnam vet who contributed $1 million and will match any donations made by other Texas residents, said, “We want to create an education center that puts faces to the names on that wall, but also help people understand as less and less people serve in the military what the military has done for the United States.”

Grizzlies owner Heisley donated $2.5 million. He isn’t a vet himself but has a special affinity for the project since a childhood friend, special forces soldier Humbert Roque “Rocky” Versace, was killed in Vietnam while a prisoner of war. “I had so many friends involved,” Heisley says. “I’ll go to my grave with a deep sense of gratitude for what all those people did. I’ve never gotten over it.”

The $85 million project continues to raise funds and hopes to break ground in 2012.

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