Just a short stroll from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall and 300 yards north of the Lincoln Memorial is a blank space on the Washington, D.C., National Mall where the National Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial will go.
With the 30th anniversary of the Persian Gulf War this month, the organizers of the memorial are looking to break ground and begin construction. There's just one problem: They're a little short on cash.
"In December 2019, we received a $10 million pledge from Kuwait toward the construction of the memorial," Cee Freeman, vice president of the National Desert Storm War Memorial Association, told VFW Magazine. "We still need about $20 million to finish our fundraising."
Read: Desert Storm Memorial Is Way Short of $40 Million Fundraising Goal
To start the construction, the memorial association must have 110% of the cost of its construction in the bank. The association has raised more than $9 million on its own while the Veterans of Foreign Wars contributed $500,000. The American Legion passed a resolution in 2017 supporting the memorial's construction.
Approval for the design and location was received in December 2019, a process that was supposed to take around 18 months, but instead took three years. The delay was caused because extra effort had to go into making the memorial fit into the landscape, staying conscious of the other memorials around it.
The U.S. Commission on Fine Arts approved the design, and once Congress decided on an area, the location was determined by the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission.
Scott Stump, a Marine Corps veteran of Desert Storm and president of the National Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial Association, hoped to have the memorial dedicated by Veterans Day 2021, in time to mark the 30th anniversary of the end of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
The memorial's design is a circular wall, a swirl that curves left, moving outward, recalling the strategy used by the U.S. to cut off Iraqi troops. American forces made a 150-mile sweep from the west through the Saudi Arabian desert, a "left hook" (as it came to be known) that cut off Iraqi supply lines and routes of escape.
Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990 and quickly overran the small Gulf nation's defenses. Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein soon annexed Kuwait as a new province. The United Nations and the Arab League attempted a diplomatic solution through negotiations and sanctions, but Hussein's rhetoric ultimately turned to the oil fields of Saudi Arabia.
At the request of the Saudi King Fahd, U.S. President George H.W. Bush approved Operation Desert Shield, the strategic buildup of U.S. military forces to counter the perceived threat of an Iraqi invasion. As negotiations failed to dislodge Iraq, U.N. Resolution 678 gave Iraqi troops until Jan. 15, 1991, to leave Kuwait or be removed by force. Forces from 34 countries had already converged in Saudi Arabia when the deadline passed without any word from Iraq. The next day, coalition air forces launched a 42-day air war. The ground campaign was launched on Feb. 24, 1991, forcing a full Iraqi retreat from Kuwait in 100 hours.
In all, 298 American troops died in the conflict. Their names will be included on the Gulf War Memorial Wall, as well as the 34 countries that joined the American coalition to liberate Kuwait.
Anyone interested in learning more about the Desert Storm Memorial can go to the National Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial Association website. You can also donate and buy merchandise to help the cause.
-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.
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