WASHINGTON — As plans move forward to build the National Desert Storm memorial in D.C., those behind the project are pushing for one particular spot on the National Mall.
“Desert Storm juxtaposed to Vietnam is very significant,” said retired Army Maj. Gen. John D. Altenburg Jr.
Altenburg is among the growing chorus of veterans pushing for the memorial to be placed close to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall because they believe the ending of the conflict also marked a change in how service members were received when they returned home from war.
When service members returned from Vietnam, many found themselves trying to hide the fact that they served during the conflict.
“They were basically pariahs coming back to their own country and the soldier’s attitude was they were only doing their duty the same way their moms and dads had done in World War II,” Altenburg said.
Altenburg says Operation Desert Storm represented a complete change in that attitude for Americans. Even those who may have been critical of the decision to go to war welcomed service members back and thanked them for their service.
“Whether the people agree with the fighting that we’re doing or not, they thank the soldiers for simply doing their duty,” Altenburg said.
He added that since the end of the Gulf War in 1991, the respect shown to U.S. military members has remained.
“That is what Desert Storm changed: the American public now has the bond it should have had with its soldiers,” Altenburg said.
The National Desert Storm War Memorial Association is the organization working toward making the memorial a reality. Right now, there are three possible sites for the memorial, but the organization is urging the numerous federal commissions, which will ultimately decide on its placement, to put it at 23rd Street Northwest and Constitution Avenue Northwest, next to the Vietnam Memorial wall.
The other two possible locations include Constitution Avenue near the Potomac River and Walt Whitman Park on E Street Northwest.
Scott Stump, CEO of the National Desert Storm War Memorial Association says their goal is to make sure the memorial doesn’t end up in a less-traveled area.
“It doesn’t do justice to those that served, those that died and all that this represents if it’s in a hard to find location that’s not near the other war memorials,” Stump said.
In Operation Desert Storm, 148 service members died in battle and another 145 died in incidents not related to battle.
The goal for organizers is getting the memorial built by 2021, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Operation Desert Storm.
Right now $1 million of the $25 million needed to build it has been raised, but Stump believes the selection of location will help with fundraising. Donations are being accepted on the association’s website.