Thousands Attend Opening of First Memorial for Disabled Veterans in DC

Thousands Attend Opening of First Memorial for Disabled Veterans in DC

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First envisioned in 1997, and funded by $80 million in private donations, a new memorial was dedicated yesterday in Washington, DC, to honor past and present disabled veterans of America.

The American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, located 1,000 feet south and west of the United States Capitol, was the brainchild of Lois Pope, 81, a philanthropist with a keen desire to help veterans. She met with Veterans Affairs leaders under the Clinton Administration in 1997 and spurred legislation that would create the memorial. Having no personal ties to any disabled veterans, she donated $10 million of her own money and helped raise the rest over the next 16 years.

Through the juxtaposition of granite and glass, the memorial’s design is meant to convey the interplay of strength and vulnerability, loss and renewal. The focal point is a star-shaped fountain, its surface broken only by a single ceremonial flame.

Three walls of laminated glass panels display embedded text and photographs of wounded veterans, like New Yorker Joe Bacani and former Kansas Senator Bob Dole. Four bronze sculptures evoke the universal story of disabled veterans’ pride of service, trauma of injury, and challenge of healing and renewal of purpose. A grove of trees stands sentry beside the reflecting pool, signifying the persistence of hope.

President Obama spoke at the dedication saying, “To every wounded warrior, to every disabled veteran — thank you.”

“With this memorial we commemorate, for the first time, the two battles our disabled veterans have fought — the battle over there, and the battle here at home — your battle to recover, which at times can be even harder, and certainly longer. You walk these quiet grounds — pause by the pictures of these men and women, you look into their eyes, read their words — and we’re somehow able to join them on a journey that speaks to the endurance of the American spirit.”

(SEE more photos at their website)