A me­mo­rial to war on ter­ror vets has merit

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

Mil­i­tary veter­ans of the war on ter­ror­ism de­serve a me­mo­rial. Let’s hope they don’t have to wait as long for it as World War II veter­ans did theirs.

Pitts­burgher Andrew Brennan, an Army vet­eran who flew he­li­copters in Afghanistan, has been pro­mot­ing the idea of a na­tional me­mo­rial in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., for about three years. Sig­nif­i­cant ob­sta­cles re­main. Fund­ing is one of them, but that’s a worry for an­other day. First, Congress would have to waive a law that per­mits memo­ri­als to be built only 10 years or more af­ter a war is con­cluded.

The war on ter­ror, how­ever, is more neb­u­lous than most. It’s a fight against a con­cept, a tac­tic used by non-state ac­tors, not a for­eign power. It’s waged on many fronts, not two or three. Un­like other wars, such as World War II, it might never end. But that’s no rea­son to hold off giv­ing veter­ans their due.

The Na­tional WWII Me­mo­rial did not open un­til 2004, 59 years af­ter the war’s end. Now, WWII veter­ans are dy­ing at a rate of hun­dreds per day, and there’s a rush to get as many as pos­si­ble to Wash­ing­ton to see the me­mo­rial while they’re still able to travel. The non­profit Honor Flight Network has cob­bled to­gether money and planes to fly tens of thou­sands of them to Wash­ing­ton.

Veter­ans of the war on ter­ror­ism shouldn’t have to wait un­til they are 80 or 90 to visit their me­mo­rial. They re­ported when called, putting duty be­fore fam­i­lies, ca­reers and con­ve­nience. Recog­ni­tion of their sac­ri­fices should be prompt, too.

Rep. Tom McClin­tock, R-Calif., is cor­rect to point out that the 10-year-rule is in­tended to pro­vide “his­tor­i­cal con­text” to a war. The wait­ing pe­riod the­o­ret­i­cally leads to a more fit­ting trib­ute. But 10 years is com­pletely ar­bi­trary; his­to­ri­ans could pro­vide even bet­ter con­text 20, 30 or 40 years af­ter­ward.

While much about the war on ter­ror­ism re­mains un­known, the broad out­lines are clear. That’s enough to get started. An un­con­ven­tional war de­serves an un­con­ven­tional me­mo­rial, and this one should be built in a way that al­lows later chap­ters of the story to be added. Ar­chi­tects will find a way.

For in­spi­ra­tion, Congress might look at the ex­am­ple set 75 years ago by the peo­ple of Monon­ga­hela, Pa., who wasted no time erect­ing an honor roll to friends and rel­a­tives serv­ing dur­ing WWII. Their me­mo­rial went up in June 1942, the work done by lo­cal crafts­men and the space do­nated by a town busi­ness­man. Plan­ning, ac­cord­ing to the old Daily Repub­li­can news­pa­per, be­gan soon af­ter the at­tack on Pearl Har­bor.

Two girls with broth­ers in the mil­i­tary pulled aside a red, white and blue cur­tain un­veil­ing the honor roll, to which names were to be added each month. For Amer­ica, the war was just get­ting started. But folks in Monon­ga­hela needed no more con­text than the empty seats at their din­ner ta­bles.

Mov­ing on a me­mo­rial now would be just thanks to veter­ans of the war on ter­ror­ism. It also might help to steel those of us on the home front. Reprinted from the Pitts­burgh Post-Gazette.

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