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Ernst, who served in Kuwait and Iraq in 2003 with the Iowa National Guard, has been working to get a memorial built on the Mall since she sponsored the Senate version of The Global War on Terrorism Memorial Location Act in 2020.
“I was proud to help successfully secure my bipartisan effort to build a #GWOTMemorial on the National Mall in the #NDAA,” Ernst said in a Tuesday tweet. “Now is the time to honor those who fought and died in the Global War on Terrorism for their sacrifice. Let’s get it across the finish line.”
The Global War on Terrorism Memorial Location Act was first introduced in November 2019 but stalled until this year, when President Biden ordered the full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan before Sept. 1, ending the country’s longest war.
Reps. Jason Crow, D-Colo, and Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., passed the House version of the bill on Sept. 23. Gold Star family members are now calling on the Senate to pass its version of the bill in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
Hundreds of people gather near a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport plane at a perimeter at the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Monday. (AP)
“We call on the U.S. Senate to do their part so the memorial can be built in the central part of the Mall,” Wounded Warrior Project CEO Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Mike Linnington said in a Nov. 5 statement. “Future generations should be able to learn about the Global War on Terrorism and honor the sacrifices of those who served, fought, were injured or were killed in America’s longest war.”
But passing the bill is only the first step in building the memorial. Congress may face more hurdles in constructing such a memorial on the mall due to a 1986 law.
On June 23, Michael Caldwell of the Interior Department’s National Park Service issued a statement to Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources ranking member Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., saying that while the department supports the construction of a memorial, it does “not support constructing it within the Reserve, and therefore” does not support the Senate version of the bill.
Veterans pay respects to fallen comrades at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., May 31, 2021. (REUTERS/Michael A. McCoy)
The Commemorative Works Act of 1986 “identifies the Reserve as ‘the great cross-axis of the Mall,’ which extends from the United States Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial, and from the White House to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.” The act states that “the siting of new commemorative works” in one of three locations within the Reserve — Constitution Gardens, the JFK Hockey Fields or West Potomac Park — “is prohibited,” which could be a roadblock in memorial advocates’ efforts to get a location in D.C.
Gold Star families haven’t given up and renewed their push for the memorial after 13 U.S. service members, including 11 Marines, one Army soldier and a Navy corpsman, were killed in an Aug. 26 explosion in Kabul.
Brown University’s Watson Institute estimates more than 7,000 U.S. service members have died in war operations after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the World Trade Center. The institute estimates more than 30,000 others have died of suicide after serving in post-9/11 operations.