WASHINGTON — Supporters of a national memorial to honor those who served in the 1991 Operation Desert Storm are seeking public support both for the nascent memorial as well as where it should be located.
A decision on location is ensnarled between dueling bureaucracies.
Congress approved the concept and construction of the memorial in 2014. Supporters hope to have the memorial dedicated in 2021, the 30-year anniversary of the war, Scott Stump, CEO and president of the organization behind the memorial, said to TMN.
“This is not a place of mourning,” said Stump, a Marine veteran of the war. “There are many positive aspects that need to be remembered from Desert Storm.”
The location of the memorial looms as the next battle for memorial supporters — a common struggle for any new memorial that desires a prime location on the National Mall. That is the area of land stretching from the Capitol west to the Potomac River that includes the Washington Monument and memorials to Abraham Lincoln, World War II, and the conflicts in Vietnam and Korea.
Stump’s organization prefers a location at the end of Constitution Avenue and 23rd Street, making it almost adjacent to the Lincoln and Vietnam War memorials.
“We feel there is a natural connection and strong symbolism to these memorials,” Stump said. “Many of the leadership in Desert Storm served in Vietnam. And the war was one of liberation,” he said, referring to the connection to the Lincoln Memorial.
Stump said the connection to Vietnam is additionally strong since the Gulf War provided what he called a pivot in the way Americans perceive the military. “The phrase ‘Thank you for your service’ did not exist prior to 1991,” Stump said.
That location was backed by the National Capital Planning Commission, which has initial authority of the location of new memorials.
However, on March 18 another entity — the Commission on Fine Arts — voted to support locating the memorial at a second location, known as the Belvedere site. The CFA’s primary responsibility is considering a memorial’s design.
The memorial boosters have a meeting with NCPC scheduled for April 5. “They are reviewing what the CFA did and will either go along with it or make another recommendation,” Stump said.
Eventually, the National Park Service — which has authority over the land eyed for the memorial — will have to agree. The park service is currently accepting public comment on the memorial and a public meeting is planned for March 27, Stump said.
The Belvedere site is located on the edge of the Potomac River, sending a striking visage from the air, from the river and on the bridges coming into the city, Stump acknowledged.
However, “it is really not easy to get there on foot. Also, we feel it is limited as a contemplative place of reflection,” Stump said.
“We always envisioned this to be not something people drive by,” Stump said. “We feel strongly that is impotent for people to experience, to have a place that is away from the hustle and bustle.”
Stump said the initial design of the memorial pays homage to the 34 nations that participated in the war as well as the roughly 650,000 service members who served — and 383 who died — in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. A prominent feature of the memorial’s design will be the part shaped like the left hook military maneuver that sent coalition forms behind Iraqi lines, Stump said.
According to the organization’s website, the memorial “has been designed as an elegantly curved, massive, Kuwaiti limestone wall, which both encloses and envelopes a sacred, somber, inner memorial space.”
Stump said $1.6 million has been raised toward a projected budget of around $25 million. He said he expects much more to flow once the site and design are finalized.