Americans should soon have another memorial in the nation's capitol - one that's long overdue.
Disabled Veterans' LIFE Memorial Foundation has won approval to erect a memorial in Washington, D.C. to honor more than 3 million living disabled American veterans in our country, as well as disabled veterans throughout American history.
Philanthropist Lois Pope is spearheading the effort to build a national memorial in Washington, D. C. honoring the more than 3 million disabled American veterans and all throughout history who have sacrificed so much for our country. The bill establishing the memorial has been passed by Congress and most recently, has been unanimously approved by The National Capital Memorial Commission. The approved site is located near the Capitol and across from the U.S. Botanic Garden. This site is in a very visible location where members of Congress will see it often.
Pope took up the cause of raising private donations for the memorial after a visit to the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial. The name of her cousin is etched in the black granite wall.
"These are the men and women who took bullets for us," Pope said. "America would not be the land of the free and the home of the brave, in my opinion, if we do not remember these veterans who have sacrificed so much."
Her concern for disabled veterans actually goes back 40 years to when she was an actress and singer on Broadway and performed in a show to benefit veterans.
Mrs. Pope was one of several Broadway performers asked to visit the famed Rusk Rehabilitation Center in New York to entertain disabled vets receiving treatment there. The following is an excerpt describing her experience in her own words.
"I chose the song "Somewhere" from West Side Story. One of its lyrics goes, "Hold my hand and I'll take you there." As I sang those words, I saw one man lying on a gurney. He had no hands for me to hold!
But he did have a smile that illuminated the room brighter than any klieg light on a performance stage. With that smile, he took me not "there," but here, to where my life was enlightened, inspired, and forever changed.
I left the Rusk Center that evening with the determination that the courage and tenacity of these veterans would be recognized and honored in perpetuity.
I envisioned a memorial which would honor them, their courage and serve to educate all Americans as to the human cost of their sacrifices.
Some years later in Washington, I stood at the Vietnam Wall before my cousin's name. I looked around at the other Memorials. There was Washington, and Jefferson, and Lincoln. But there was no memorial to that quadriplegic at the Rusk Center. There was no permanent monument to these courageous young men and women.
They have given so much more than was ever asked for by their fellow citizens. We, therefore, have a solemn obligation to assure that they will never be forgotten or neglected. I thought to myself, all right, now I am in a position to do something about this. I must."
Over the next several years, the necessary funding will be secured, all from private donations - every cent of the $65 million dollar cost needed to build the memorial will come from private sources.
A fund-raising campaign began on the eve of Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2001, when Mrs. Pope presented the Unsung Hero Award of 2001 to Rick Romley, whose legs were blown off by a mine in 1969 when he was a marine fighting in Vietnam.
Please visit www.avdlm.org for more information or to make a contribution.