Gold Star family members and veterans in New England are among those asking Congress to move forward on an already approved plan to build a Global War on Terrorism Memorial in Washington, D.C., honoring more than 7,000 veterans.
A bill introduced in the Senate by Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa -- a veteran who spent time in Kuwait during the Iraq War -- would see the memorial placed on the National Mall in an area called The Reserve.
The Reserve is the area of the mall where the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial and Vietnam Veterans Memorial all are. A previous Congress said nothing else could be built there.
But for Maine U.S. Representative Jared Golden, a Democrat and veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan, there is more than enough reason for the current Congress to approve the bipartisan proposal to put the memorial in that spot.
“This memorial will provide veterans and their families, especially Gold Star families a place in our capital for reflection and healing,” he told a Senate subcommittee that heard testimony on Ernst’s bill on Wednesday.
Golden pointed out that the Global War on Terrorism “is also the longest conflict our history,” and consisted of forces that were all volunteer. He said that should be incentive enough for Congress to place the memorial in The Reserve -- and vote to do that sooner than later.
“As our soldiers return from Afghanistan in the months ahead, now is the time to send a clear message that this nation will fully honor those who served in the Global War on Terrorism and that we will never forget the many sacrifices that have been made,” he explained.
Opposing Golden and others who wish to add to The Reserve are representatives from the National Parks Service and one of whom, Michael Caldwell, told the senators as much on Wednesday.
“The department does not support this bill,” he said.
That answer falls flat with Stephanie Ouelette, a Gold Star family member from New Hampshire whose brother was killed in Afghanistan in 2009.
“Honestly, they have The Reserve for this very reason,” she said of the discussion of where to place the memorial.
Ouelette is also part of a non-profit that is advocating for the memorial’s construction and says she has met a number of Gold Star families since her brother's passing, which informs her views about the idea to build it.
“This particular group of families deserve the same place, they need a touchstone, they need a place to go on a national level,” she said of her view that the memorial ought to be located in a place on par with conflicts like the Vietnam War.
It isn’t exactly clear yet when Congress will vote on placing the memorial and how its members will decide on that question.