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WASHINGTON- Several bipartisan lawmakers, along with dozens of U.S. military veterans, service members and Gold Star family members, gathered on the National Mall Thursday morning for the first annual “Ruck the Reserve” event celebrating the authorization of a highly anticipated Global War on Terror (GWOT) memorial.
The event was spearheaded by the nonprofit GWOT Memorial Foundation, which has been raising money and pushing Congress for a memorial on the National Mall along what’s called “the reservation” since 2017.
Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; Senator Maggie Hassan, DN.H. ; Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis.; and Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., helped pass two bills — the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Location Act and the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Act — authorizing the construction of a GWOT memorial on the National Mall despite Washington’s bureaucracy.
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“We initially got the permission and then the bill that allows a spot on the mall. Now we have to do the hard work to keep raising funds and making sure the project moves forward,” Gallagher said. Fox News Digital at Thursday’s event, which began at the Lincoln Memorial. “As you can see, it’s a great group of veterans, people who have been involved in the legislative process. And I think that’s proof that this is truly a bipartisan effort. .”
“It’s a huge hurdle that we’ve overcome, so now it’s full speed ahead,” he added.
In 2017, former President Trump signed the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Act, which authorized the memorial on federal lands along the reservation in Washington, DC, but it did not provide a specific location.
The legislation met with resistance from National Park Service. The acting deputy director of park planning told a Senate sub-committee in June 2021 that the reserve was a “completed work” based on the Memorial Works Act 1986, meaning that the construction of new memorials along the Mall was not permitted.
The latest version of the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Act waives the Commemorative Works Act and now requires the National Park Service to work with the Global War on Terrorism Foundation to find a location on the National Mall. Crow sponsored the House version of the 2021 bill and Ernst sponsored the Senate version.
The foundation chose three potential locations for the GWOT memorial between World War II and Lincoln Memorials. Participants in Thursday’s “ruck” marched to each location Thursday morning.
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“It means the world to me to know that this memorial is going to be here on our National Mall, and it will honor all of those great men and women who served in our armed forces in the Global War on Terror, but it also honors their families and those who have lost loved ones,” Ernst told Fox News Digital. “It will be a place of remembrance. A place where families and communities can come together and simply remember the significant service and sacrifice over the past 20 years of the [GWOT].”
She added that the annual “Ruck the Reserve” event will continue to grow in the years to come as the construction of the memorial gets closer to reality.
GWOT Memorial Foundation President and CEO Michael Rodriguez, who joined the US Army in 1992 and served as a Green Beret until his medical retirement in 2013 due to his combat injuries, said during of Thursday’s event that the memorial will be “the largest, most diverse, and most inclusive war memorial ever built.”
“We will especially honor our brothers and sisters… who never returned. We also honor all those who served. War touches you. Many of us have set foot on a battlefield, and it will go back to home with you,” Rodriguez said on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. “Some of us it’s a little more obvious than others. We also honor the family. deploy to the same areas of Afghanistan to do almost the exact same mission that I did a few years later. »
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The memorial will honor service members, veterans and families who served in the GWOT 20 years ago after 3,000 people died in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and ending just before September 2021, when 13 US military were killed in an explosion in Kabul after President Biden withdrew all US troops out of Afghanistan by August 31 of last year.
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After the 13 service members, including 11 Marinesa Army soldier and a Marine corpsman, were killed Aug. 26 in a suicide bombing outside Hamid Karzai International Airport, DC residents and visitors held a vigil at the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Va., to remember deaths.
Gold Star families say a GWOT memorial on the mall will provide a unified gathering place for all service members and their loved ones to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere over the past two decades.