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The American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial

With Memorial Day coming up next week, I decided for this bike ride to go to one of the city’s newest memorials, The American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial. Located just a block off the National Mall at 150 Washington Avenue (MAP) in southwest D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, the memorial opened just this past September after a more than a dozen years in the making.

The origins of the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial date back to a chance meeting in 1995 at another D.C. memorial. A woman named Lois Pope, widow of National Enquirer owner Generoso Pope Jr., met a disabled American veteran at The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. Realizing that there was not a memorial to honor disabled veterans, she attempted to call the office of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jesse Brown to plead for one. Unable to get through, she called again every day for six months until Brown’s secretary finally put her call through.  The Commemorative Works Act of 1986 prohibits the expenditure of Federal funds for memorials, but Secretary Brown agreed to support legislation to establish memorial.

On October 23, 2000, Congress adopted legislation authorizing the Disabled Veterans for Life Memorial Foundation, whose purpose was to design, raise funds for, and construct a memorial.  Almost a decade later the fundraising goal was reached. The groundbreaking for the memorial occurred on November 10, 2010.  And on October 5, 2014, President Barack Obama officially dedicated the memorial.

The Memorial, located on a 1.72-acre parcel of Federally-owned land, consists of five distinct yet interconnected elements. The first element and centerpiece of the Memorial’s design is a 30 inches-tall black granite fountain in the shape of a five-pointed star, with a ceremonial eternal flame rising out of the water in the middle of the fountain. Extending south and southeast from the star-shaped fountain is the Memorial’s second element, a reflecting pool which, together with the fountain, are designed to reflect the nearby U.S. Capitol building. The third element is known as the “Wall of Gratitude”, and consists of two long, white granite walls which extend along the western edge of the site, and are inscribed with quotations from General George Washington and General Dwight Eisenhower, as well as the name of the memorial. The fourth element is the “Voices of Veterans” area, which forms the southern portion of the site and consists of three staggered glass walls made up of 49 panels. On the interior sheets of glass are inscribed photo-realistic images of veterans and quotations from veterans describing their devotion to duty, what it was like to be wounded, and how they came to terms with their disability. Four bronze panels, with silhouettes of soldiers cut from their center, stand behind some of the glass panels. The final element of the memorial consists of a grove of memorial trees. The “Voices of Veterans” element is set among the trees of the northern part of this grove.

The American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial serves as a permanent national public tribute to veterans of the armed forces of the United States who were permanently disabled during the course of their national service.  This includes over four million veterans currently living with a disability, as well as countless others who subsequently passed away.  It is the only national memorial to not defined by service branch, military unit or specific conflict, but to simply honor those who veterans seriously injured in the line of duty as heroes.

Although the upcoming Memorial Day holiday is for remembering military personnel who died while serving, it is an opportune time to also remember those who served and survived, but continue to pay a price for that service, as well as all military veterans.  For as one of the inscriptions on the memorial reads, “In war, there are no unwounded soldiers.”

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[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

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