By Jan Scruggs 11 NOV 2016
Fifteen years ago, I heard the explosion and saw smoke billowing from the Pentagon. This was the beginning of a war, I thought. Maybe most of us did. It was, and after all this time, after thousands of service members have been killed and tens of thousands wounded, there is still no end in sight.
Yet there is precious little that recognizes their sacrifice. Discounts at the mall, priority seating on planes — these are nice, but they hardly amount to the sort of commemoration we have bestowed on veterans of previous wars. What we need is a national memorial.
It’s a question I have grappled with before. I joined the Army in 1968, and the next year was severely wounded in Vietnam. Back home, I spent several years researching what is now called post-traumatic stress, and I began thinking about what the war had meant to us, as a country, and how to commemorate it.
It wasn’t an easy question. America had never lost a war before, and the wounds of Vietnam were still fresh. Nevertheless, in 1979, I founded the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund; a whirlwind three years later, we opened the memorial on the National Mall. The newest generation of veterans deserves that same energy today.
We have already done the important work of recognizing the events of Sept. 11. Over $800 million was spent for monuments at the Pentagon, the World Trade Center and the crash site of Flight 93 in Pennsylvania. But America’s troops have been left out.