Editor's note: The following is an opinion piece. The writer is not employed by Military Times and the views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of Military Times or its editorial staff.
It’s been more than 25 years since Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, a country most Americans couldn’t have found on a map at the time. This set into motion the events which would lead to one of the most lustrous examples of military triumph and redemption in American and world history.
Unfortunately, now 25 years removed, Americans who remember Operation Desert Storm typically fall into one of two categories: Some remember it as a video game war which was over before it started, one where nobody died. Others blur the lines of history and think of Operation Desert Storm as Part I of Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom, never recalling that its sole objective was to liberate the citizens of Kuwait.
As a Marine Corps veteran of Operation Desert Storm, I came to the startling realization six years ago that ODS was becoming a footnote in history, an insignificant speed bump as recollected by many.
I was moved to action through this awareness and knew that something had to be done. I initiated the effort to construct a memorial in Washington, D.C., not only to memorialize the fallen, but also to educate Americans and global citizens born and yet to be born. Future generations need to know this story and how important it is to everyone.
There are many reasons why this memorial is so vital. First, 383 Americans made the ultimate sacrifice back in 1990-91. That sacrifice is the same one made at Bunker Hill, Argonne Forest, Iwo Jima, the Chosin Reservoir, Khe Sanh and Fallujah. The blood spilled is equally precious; their sacrifice is every bit as important in the defense of our country and its cherished ideals.
We also had more than 600,000 Americans answer the call to serve, all of whom were ready to lay down their lives if required to do so. The service and sacrifice of this generation should never be forgotten.
Second, we liberated a country, Kuwait, after a brutal seven-month occupation. It was a tremendously important feat — one that was right, just and moral, as President George H.W. Bush put it — and the way it took place was just as remarkable, with the participation of 33 other countries from across the globe. In this current environment of suspicion and distrust of others, it’s a shining example of what can be done together. The world through U.S. leadership was at its best, an example of cooperation I doubt we will see replicated for a very long time if ever.
Last but not least, Operation Desert Storm was a significant and powerful turning point in the U.S. Our citizens collectively realized what a shameful mistake it was to have treated many of our Vietnam veterans poorly upon their return home, and collectively vowed that it never happen again. I don’t believe that our brave men and women who have been serving since 2001 and who currently serve would be treated with the dignity and respect they so rightly deserve if it were not for that realization and the lessons learned through Desert Storm.
Some also claim that the reason why Desert Storm was such a rapid and resounding success is because the Iraqi military was so bad. Anyone heard of ISIS? I don’t believe they were that bad. I believe we were that good because our leaders were Vietnam veterans who were not going to let what happened to them the first time around happen to us. I credit them and their leadership for allowing me and hundreds of thousands of others to return home safely.
The effort behind the National Desert Storm War Memorial has made tremendous progress over the past six years through a group of dedicated volunteers. Legislation was passed in December 2014 that authorized the construction of the memorial on federal land in Washington, D.C. It will be paid for entirely by private funds.
We have narrowed down the locations to two finalists, and we are in the throes of a projected $25 million fundraising campaign to ensure that the National Desert Storm War Memorial will take its place among existing memorials and continue to tell the story of honor, service and sacrifice which has made our country the exceptional place we all call home.
Won’t you join us on this epic journey and help us remember those who deserve to be remembered?
Scott C. Stump is the chairman, president and chief executive officer of the National Desert Storm War Memorial Association. He served as an infantryman with I Marine Expeditionary Force during Operation Desert Storm. For more information on the memorial, visit www.ndswm.org .