New DAV Memorial in DC
Posted: Sunday, October 5, 2014

Posted: Sunday, October 5, 2014

Memorial honoring disabled veterans dedicated on National Mall

Oct. 5, 2014 - 04:17PM   |  
Barack Obama
President Obama speaks Oct. 5 during the dedication ceremony for the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial in Washington. (Molly Riley / AP)
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President Obama speaks Oct. 5 during the dedication ceremony for the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial in Washington. (Molly Riley / AP)

The row of wheelchairs near the memorial dedication stage wasn’t part of the new tribute site, but it did help underscore its goal.

On Sunday, hundreds of wounded veterans, military advocates and government officials gathered in Washington, D.C., for the dedication of the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial. The event was the culmination of 16 years of work and $80 million in private donations, and drew praise as a long-overdue thank you for those whose wounds extended past the battlefield.

“This memorial is a challenge to all of us, and a reminder of the obligations we are under,” President Obama told the crowd. “Let us never rush into war, because it’s America’s sons and daughters that bear the scars.”

There are about 4 million disabled veterans in America, with almost a quarter of that total from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The new site is unusual in its dedication to both deceased and living veterans, setting aside much of its commemoration for individuals still able to visit the site and talk about its personal meaning.

Unlike the six other war tributes on the National Mall located about a mile west, this memorial sits in the shadow of the Capitol building, a reminder from its designers that costs of armed conflict linger far beyond the battlefield.

Lois Pope, chairwoman of the memorial foundation, said the idea grew from her visit to the Vietnam War Memorial to see her fallen cousin’s name, and seeing the disabled Vietnam veterans visiting there.

“I asked the park ranger where the memorial was to pay tribute to those men,” she said. “He said there was none. I said, ‘We have to fix that.’”

She refers to the Vietnam wall as “the saddest place on Earth” and said the goal for the disabled veterans memorial all along was to provide a much more uplifting — if still sober — message.

“I really hope this is a call to action,” said Pope, a former Broadway star and prominent philanthropist. “We need to always make sure these veterans get the care they need and deserve and have earned.”

Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald echoed that sentiment at Sunday’s ceremony, calling the new site a powerful reminder of both the sacrifices made and his agency’s work to be done.

“VA exists to serve them,” he said of disabled veterans. “They are they lifeblood of democracy ... and our most important focus.”

Obama also praised the continued service of many wounded veterans in their post military life, some in the civilian workforce, some as role models for the next generation of Americans.

“Here we see your resolve, and your refusal to give in to despair and cynicism,” he said. “Disabled veterans are defined not by what you can’t do, but what you can do.

“If you want to see what real strength is, look at these men and women.”

The 2.4-acre site is wedged between several federal buildings, offering a space of calm among the rush of Capitol Hill, according to designers. Memorial walls are filled with quotes from statesmen and disabled veterans, and imagery of the survivors of of both visible and invisible combat wounds.

Actor Gary Sinise, the public face of the memorial project for the last several years, said organizers hope that will be the start of a national conversation on those veterans continuing role in American history.

“We can’t give these wounded veterans back their arms and legs,” he told the crowd. “But we can give them our respect, our everlasting thanks, and our support.”

American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial - Dedication Ceremony: October 5, 2014

Throughout our nation’s history, service men and women have gone bravely into battle, risking their lives and livelihoods, sacrificing their safety to defend America. When their duty is done, many return home to life as it was. Sadly, for over 4 million veterans seriously injured in the line of duty, leaving the battlefield does not mark the end of conflict. These permanently disabled heroes often carry home life-altering disabilities – stern reminders of the price of freedom.

America’s disabled veterans have honored us with their service and selfless duty. It is now our turn to honor them.

For the first time, America will pay tribute to some of our most courageous heroes – our disabled veterans. The American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial will celebrate those men and women who may be broken in body – but never in spirit.

© 2014 Disabled Veterans' Life Memorial Foundation, Inc.
150 Washington Ave S.W. Washington, DC 20024
DVLMF®, AVDLM®, The American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial®, Their Courage Endures®, the star logo®, are registered trademarks of the Disabled Veterans' Life Memorial Foundation, Inc.
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