New US Memorial Honors Disabled Veterans

by Deborah Block

October 04, 2014

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A number of memorials in Washington pay tribute to Americans in the armed forces who fought for their country during war. On Sunday, a new memorial opens to honor all American veterans who were disabled while serving their country. The American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial is a symbol of strength and hope.

The disabled men and women are being honored for the first time with their own memorial. The one-hectare landmark that took several years to construct is adjacent to the National Mall and close to the U.S. Capitol.

It features a five-point star-shaped fountain representing the five branches of the American military, a reflecting pool, and granite slabs and glass panels illustrating the strength and fragility of the disabled.

Deep cost

For Ron Hope, who lost his arm in 1969 during combat in the Vietnam War, the tribute is a long time coming. He is head of the charity Disabled American Veterans.

I think this memorial is going to be a place that not only the disabled veterans themselves, but their families, their survivors, their caregivers, especially their caregivers, and their dependents can come and reflect upon what it cost every day for their blessings and their freedoms in this country, said Hope.

Hope is among the 4 million disabled veterans in the United States. One wall at the memorial has quotes with expressions of gratitude for their sacrifices. Sheets of glass inscribed with images of veterans tell the stories of what it was like to be wounded and how they cope with their disabilities. Hope said for many disabled veterans, its a constant struggle and it doesnt help that many of them feel invisible.

Sometimes the American public dont know how to approach, dont know how to talk, dont know how to deal with them, and so, therefore, they avoid them. And that emotionally is worse than the disability itself, he said.

Inform, educate, remind

Philanthropist Lois Pope began pushing for the memorial almost two decades ago after meeting soldiers at a rehabilitation center. She is the co-founder of a foundation that raised more than $80 million for the memorial, including $10 million of her own. She explained what she hopes the memorial will accomplish.

To inform, educate and remind the American people of the sacrifices and the struggles, the continuing struggles, and the lack of recognition and respect we have in this country for disabled vets, she said.

Pope said the disabled veterans memorial is a reminder of the cost of war; but, she says it is also a place for reflection and hope, peace and healing for disabled veterans and their loved ones.