Military Veterans Want ‘War on Terror’ Memorial

by Jennifer Shea

Veterans who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan have pointed out that they lack a place on the National Mall. Unlike veterans of other wars, they have nowhere to go to honor the sacrifices of those who served in the War on Terror.

There’s a bipartisan push to clear the way for such a memorial. But it has run into opposition from Congressional Democrats, Fox News reports.

Here’s the context. In 2003, Congress passed a law that bans any further development on the National Mall. To create a memorial for the War on Terror, Congress would need to pass an exemption to that law.

Veteran and Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) says she has bipartisan support for a memorial on the Mall. But she says Congressional Democrats have blocked her bill. They argue the exemption could actually, counterintuitively, prevent the memorial from being built.

“I am concerned that trying to legislatively enforce a memorial into the reserve area of the National Mall will result in a more contentious approval process,” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-VA) said in a speech from the Senate floor.

Proponents of the memorial argue its construction will help to combat the recent uptick in military suicides across the country.

Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation Helped Lead the Campaign for Memorial

A relatively small 501(c)(3) nonprofit, the Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation, got the campaign going in 2015. The foundation, whose honorary chairman is former President George W. Bush, is composed of military veterans and patriotic Americans who want to see a national war memorial on federal land.

On Aug. 18, 2017, then-President Trump signed into law a bill that authorized the foundation to run the fundraising, design and construction of a War on Terror memorial. Representing the foundation on Capitol Hill was the law firm Baker Botts, a formidable international player headquartered in Houston with special expertise in the energy, oil and gas industry.

Meanwhile, Sen. Ernst, who is closely involved with the foundation, and Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) have continued to push for a War on Terror memorial. That’s despite the fact that their bipartisan bill was blocked on the Senate floor this September.

“Now more than ever, it’s time we as a nation honor the servicemembers, fallen soldiers, their families, and all those impacted by the Global War on Terrorism with a national memorial,” Ernst wrote in a recent column. “The Global War on Terrorism Memorial on our National Mall would be a longstanding testament and reminder of their selflessness for generations to come.”

Military Suicides Climbed in 2020

More than 7,000 U.S. service members have died in combat since 9/11. But at least four times as many military personnel and veterans have committed suicide in that time frame, WRAL reports.

According to Defense Department statistics, military suicides were up across all branches last year. The total suicide toll rose 15 percent last year compared to 2019, per WRAL.

Meanwhile, a DOD Inspector General report released this month found that the military is not screening troops for suicide risk before they return to civilian life. The Department of Veterans Affairs has said that service members leaving active duty face a threefold suicide risk compared to other stages of their military career.

Whether a memorial will make a dent in those numbers remains to be seen. But advocates of the memorial say it’s a step in the right direction.