President Donald J. Trump poses with Vice President Mike Pence, Cabinet members, and Senior White House Advisors, Friday, Aug. 18, 2017, in Laurel Lodge at Camp David, as he signed the Global War on Terrorism War Memorial Act. (Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian)

“We as a Foundation recognized the need and took on the noble mission of working with Congress to amend the current 10-year restriction.”

Prior to the construction of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (or the Wall as it is commonly known) on the National Mall, no memorials had been built on the federal green space honoring wartime service. With the Wall’s dedication in 1982, Congress chose to enact rules that would create a new standard for future federal war memorials. The 1986 Commemorative Works Act was the answer to that lack of regulation that the Vietnam Veterans Memorial’s speed and success highlighted. One of the law’s major tenants which, impacted our mission directly is shown below:

(b) Military Commemorative Works.–A military commemorative work may be authorized only to commemorate a war or similar major military conflict or a branch of the armed forces. A commemorative work solely commemorating a limited military engagement; or a unit of an armed force may not be authorized. Commemorative works to a war or similar major military conflict may not be authorized until at least 10 years after the officially designated end of such war or conflict;

Most military strategists, think tanks and military families acknowledge that the “Global War on Terror” is a multi-generational conflict, to be potentially fought for 80-100 more years, if not into perpetuity. The collective understanding of war has changed dramatically since 1986, and the laws governing military commemorative works needed to change accordingly. Post 9/11 Veterans and families were faced with a situation that would be much worse than what we saw with the Greatest Generation who saved the world from tyranny during World War II; that generation of warriors and families did not have a place on the Mall until 59 years after their war ended, and for many of them it sadly came too late. We as a Foundation recognized the need and took on the noble mission of working with Congress to amend the current 10-year restriction.

In September of 2016. Then Congressman Ryan Zinke (R-MT) introduced H.R. 5999 to authorize the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation to establish the National Global War on Terrorism Memorial as a commemorative work in the District of Columbia, and for other purposes in the 114th Congress. President Trump’s selection of then Congressman Ryan Zinke as his Secretary of the Interior presented GWOTMF with challenges. More than 70 House members had cosponsored then Congressman Zinke’s GWOT Memorial Bill in the 114th Congress, but as he left the House for the Department of the Interior, it forced us to find a new lead sponsor for the legislation.

In February 2017, a GWOT Marine Veteran, and freshman Congressman Mike Gallagher (R-WI), stepped forward. Congressman Gallagher joined forces with fellow GWOT Veteran, Congressman Seth Moulton (D-MA), and introduced HR 873, the National Global War on Terrorism War Memorial Act. The two GWOT Veterans worked in an exceptional bipartisan fashion with GWOTMF staff to gain numerous cosponsors for the bill, execute a national press conference in support of the legislation, and assisted with Congressional hearing preparation and coordination.

In the Senate, combat Veteran Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) also crafted legislation identical to the House companion bill and introduced the Senate measure in April. This bill quickly drew U.S. Senators who are Veterans as supporters: Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), Senator Tammy Duckworth (D- IL), as well as Senator Ernst (R-IA). Prior to passage in August 2017, more than 160 House members and more than 20 Senators had signed on to support the bill.

On August 18th, 2017, in only six months since H.R. 873 was introduced, President Trump signed the National Global War on Terrorism War Memorial Act into law at Camp David surrounded by his National Security Council. The Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation was officially handed the mission.

Learn more about the 1986 Commemorative Works Act

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