Op-Ed: War on Terrorism Memorial will honor veterans of America's longest conflict
For a generation of Americans and military members, the Global War on Terrorism launched after the Sept. 11 attacks has been the defining military engagement of their lifetimes. Spanning numerous military operations across multiple continents, this conflict has dramatically changed the previously held understanding of war, both on the battlefield and in our society. Now, it is changing how we approach honoring those who have served.
For decades, the National Mall has contained memorials commemorating our nation’s wars. From the ghostly silhouettes of the Korean War Memorial to the somber etched wall of the Vietnam Memorial, each monument reminds visitors of the heavy cost of freedom. These places are more than physical locations; for our veterans and their families, they are places of remembrance, reflection and healing. We know their impact: Since 1982, countless veterans of the Vietnam War have experienced the immense connection to the Wall.
Yet, not all who served have been afforded this opportunity. Despite the amazing work of the Bucks County Tour of Honor and programs like it, only three out of four World War II veterans visited their memorial before their passing. Now, as the Global War on Terrorism continues, we are once again faced with the prospect that another generation of warriors could miss the tribute to their service.
Despite the Global War on Terrorism continuing for more than 15 years, including 7,000 U.S. troops killed in action and tens of thousands of other veterans, its ongoing status ran afoul of the 1986 Commemorative Works Act, which requires that monuments in honor of a “limited military engagement" or a unit of an armed force may not be authorized ... until at least 10 years after the officially designated end of such war or conflict.” Without the law changing accordingly, this generation of warriors may never see their service, or their fallen brothers and sisters, memorialized in the nation’s capital.
That is why Congress passed HR 873, bipartisan legislation authored by Congressmen Seth Moulton, D-Mass., and Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., both Marine Corps veterans of the Global War on Terrorism. Under this act, the Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation is authorized to raise private funds, construct and maintain a memorial on federal land.
In addition to providing those who have served and their families a place to honor the sacrifices of our post-9/11 veterans, America needs a reminder that we are still a country at war. The Global War on Terrorism has been fought by an all-volunteer military representing a much smaller proportion of our population than previous wars, which has allowed most Americans to be spared a shared sacrifice. Today, brave men and women continue to sign up to serve their country, knowing that they may be required to deploy to all corners of the world to fight a resolute enemy determined to end our way of life.
In a world where negative news permeates our lives, we need look no further than our military service members who represent all that is good and honorable in America. This GWOT Memorial should inspire all Americans who pass through our nation’s capital to live with the same character as the leaders of this post-9/11 generation who have selflessly served and sacrificed.
We must rightfully honor those who served, and continue to serve, in the worldwide fight against terrorism. Additionally, as a nation, we must look for ways for all citizens to join the cause. While bills have now been passed to make this memorial a possibility, it will require private funding to make it a reality. Our nation no longer asks patriotic Americans to purchase war bonds to fund our wars, but supporting the GWOT Memorial is a fitting way to support our Veterans and their families.
We look forward to standing together at this solemn memorial one day, with veterans and non-veterans representing a grateful nation,who united in a common cause to celebrate the heroes of our generation who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Ryan Manion is the sister of 1st Lt. Travis Manion and president of the Travis Manion Foundation. She is a member of the advisory board for the Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit whose mission is to provide the organizing, fundraising, and coordinating efforts to build a memorial on federal land in Washington, D.C., to honor our fallen warriors, U.S. service members, their families and all those who have supported and continue to support our nation’s longest war.
Republican Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick serves the 8th District, comprising all of Bucks County and a portion of Montgomery County.