WASHINGTON — Lawmakers on Thursday gave final approval to the idea of a Global War on Terror memorial, clearing the path for what is expected to be a years-long process of designing and building a tribute to the latest generation of veterans.
In wrap-up work before their summer recess, senators unanimously approved legislation that would allow planning of the memorial to begin immediately, instead of the normally mandated 10-year wait period after the end of a military conflict.
Supporters have argued that because the ongoing “war on terror” is open-ended, it could take decades before an official end is declared. By then, they worry, a generation of warfighters may have already died without seeing a tribute to their service.
“This memorial will be wholly dedicated to our 7,000 brothers and sisters who deployed with us but did not return, and their survivors,” said Andrew Brennan, founder and executive director of the Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation. “It is dedicated to the 1 million wounded warriors who are reclaiming their lives back here at home.
“We’re looking forward to building a sacred place of healing and remembrance for our GWOT veterans, a place for families to gather together to honor their loved ones, and for future generations of Americans to learn about a war they will likely grow up alongside of.”
The House passed the memorial legislation last week. President Donald Trump is expected to sign the measure into law.
Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., a Marine Corps officer who served in Iraq and sponsored the House bill, said last week he saw the measure as important not just for his fellow veterans, but for reminding the country about what his generation of service members sacrificed.
“I hope we can find a way to capture the spirit of these wars, how unique they are,” he said. “You’re doing something that you hope will last forever.”
Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, an Iraq War vet and a Senate sponsor of the effort, called Thursday’s vote, “another step closer toward honoring the brave men and women, and their loved ones, who have sacrificed so much in the defense of our nation.”
The bill does not provide any money for the project, or specify any design plans. Instead, it authorizes Brennan’s foundation to oversee fundraising and construction of the memorial.
That’s a process that supporters say will likely take a decade, if not longer. Organizers say the work can begin in earnest once the president signs the measure into law.
The planning will include negotiations with the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission to discuss a possible location on the National Mall for the memorial.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.