A federal panel on Thursday cleared the way for a memorial to be built along the National Mall honoring the American service members who fought in Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield.
Pending final approvals, the National Desert Storm War Memorial would be built at 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue, not far from Vietnam Veterans Memorial, World War II Memorial and Korean War Veterans Memorial, Military Times reported.
“These men and women who went to Desert Shield, Desert Storm put their lives on the line for this country, and they deserve to be placed next to my brothers and sisters who are on that wall in Vietnam, in World War II and Korea, where I served,” Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., told the National Capital Planning Commission, according to Military.com.
Although other sites were offered, the organization developing the memorial wanted it to be along the National Mall so that visitors could easily come to the site.
“Really, what was most important to us was not visibility, but visit-ability,” said Scott Stump, president of the National Desert Storm War Memorial Association, according to WTOP.
The organization has waged a three-year fight to have the memorial built where it wanted.
“It’s been exhaustive,” he said. “The average person has no idea the level of work, time, wear and tear that is involved. It’s just a grueling process that we’ve endured.”
But in the end, they won.
“It’s in close proximity to the National Mall and the other memorials and commemorative works to where a person could actually access it, could walk to it, easily,” Stump said. “We felt like if you have something that’s the most beautiful memorial in the world, but it takes a lot of work for people to get there and people aren’t going to visit, then it kind of defeats our purpose.”
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The project now moves to the design and construction phases. Plans call for the memorial to cost about $25 million, with the cost all paid for through private donations.
Stump said the memorial will both honor the past and educate future generations of Americans.
“I hope obviously that if (visitors) don’t know the story, that they will learn about it,” Stump said. “If they kind of remember the story, maybe it will jog their memory and remind them that this was not the 100-hour war that it’s so erroneously referred to so many times. This was a big deal – it affected 700,000 people, and it was also one of the most overwhelmingly successful military operations in history.”
During Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm, 383 American service members lost their lives.
However, Stump said this memorial is not only about loss.
“It’s not a place of mourning,” he said. “Yes, remembering our people is of utmost importance, but it’s not the only aspect. There are some good points that are going to be remembered, like the coalition of 34 countries.”
The Gulf War saw the debut of high technology weapons and came in response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The war freed Kuwait and weakened the regime of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
“It was a remarkable time, so maybe this will give people some aspirations of ‘hey, this was a good time in our country’s history, this was a good time in the world’s history, where everybody came together and did the right thing.’ At the end of the day, this was all about doing the right thing,” Stump said.
The group hopes to have the memorial completed in 2021.
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