Advocates Push For A 'Global War On Terror' Memorial

Sep 9, 2017
Originally published on September 9, 2017 4:06 pm
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Monday marks 16 years since the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. Last month, President Trump signed a bill to allow the construction of a privately built war memorial in Washington, D.C. It would honor U.S. service members and the families who lost their lives in America's longest war. WAMU's Brakkton Booker reports.

BRAKKTON BOOKER, BYLINE: It's an unusually mild summer day in Washington, as tourists stroll and bike on the National Mall. I'm standing in front of a bronze statue at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, known as The Three Servicemen. It's also here where I meet Andrew Brennan. He's an Army veteran who flew Black Hawk helicopters in Afghanistan, and he hopes to one day add a global war on terror memorial on the National Mall.

ANDREW BRENNAN: There's a memorial for Vietnam. There's a memorial for Korea. There's a memorial for World War II. There's one in the works for World War I and Desert Storm. And it really begged the question in my mind, you know, what is my generation going to ride to? Where is our communal healing space going to be?

BOOKER: Brennan is the executive director of the Global War on Terror Memorial. He hopes they can build it somewhere on the National Mall.

BRENNAN: I would probably put something down north of the Lincoln, heading toward, you know, kind of the Potomac and up toward the Kennedy Center - sites that are adequate size and able to be developed.

BOOKER: Federal law normally prohibits construction of new war monuments for at least 10 years after the conflict has concluded. But the bill sent to the president last month contains an exception for this memorial. It was backed by a bipartisan group of lawmakers on Capitol Hill, some who happen to be veterans of the war on terror. Not everyone is happy about building a new monument on the highly symbolic mall.

JUDY FELDMAN: The whole purpose of monuments and memorials is to remind us of the past.

BOOKER: Judy Feldman is a historian who chairs the National Mall Coalition. She says this is an ongoing conflict.

FELDMAN: We don't know when it will end. We don't know what the outcome might be. And we don't really know what the message would be.

BOOKER: The Trump administration authorized Brennan's group to oversee the project. Some are worried the monument could be politicized. Corey Saylor is with the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

COREY SAYLOR: I think my main concern is just having the Trump administration involved in it, given President Trump's animus toward Islam. We just want to make sure that his ideas don't make their way into any memorial.

BOOKER: Andrew Brennan says the monument will be inclusive. He adds, it will be for all those who lost their lives and for everyone who has supported the nation's longest war.

BRENNAN: The fact that we've been at war longer than 10 years does give us enough time to reflect back and look - like, hey, this war is significant enough in the course of U.S. history to warrant a permanent memorial.

BOOKER: Brennan's group plans to hold a competition to design the monument. The foundation will host an event in Washington next week to begin raising what could be as much as $35 million for the project. Brennan hopes to break ground on it as early as 2024. For NPR News, I'm Brakkton Booker in Washington.

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