They want to give veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan a place where they can reflect on war's wounds — seen and unseen — reunite with battle buddies; it would be a physical testament to their legacy.
Veterans from wars' past along with troops in the current conflicts are coming together to begin an effort to honor the 2.5 million troops who have been to the war zones since 2001.
Their message? The time to create the memorial is now.
Every day that passes is one fewer day Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom vets can gather together at a national monument honoring their service, said Jan Scruggs.
Standing in front of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial — the monument he got built — in Washington, D.C., two days shy of Veterans Day, Scruggs made the agenda clear: "This is the time to decide, 'When do we start this, and what should be the goal?'" Scruggs believes it will take between seven and 12 years to establish the memorial — from working with legislative allies to developing an architecture plan.
"We have to memorialize the troops, remember those serving, certainly remember those who gave their lives," Scruggs said, identifying the 6,800 who've lost their lives in the last 14 years.
[I await a quote or two from ADM. MULLEN. TBD. No word yet//OP]
One leading organization Scruggs and other military leadership have begun advising is the newly minted nonprofit Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation in Pittsburgh. Its director, Andrew Brennan, and his team of 11 board members, eight of them OEF/OIF veterans, have the singular mission of creating this memorial.
"We are global war on terror veterans ourselves, and we're not a big, national nonprofit, we don't have our hands in any other movement, we just want to do this one, worthwhile thing for this cause," said Brennan, who deployed to Afghanistan in 2010.
The idea for the foundation came over a year ago after Brennan, on a cross-country Warrior Hike, witnessed time and time again the camaraderie within vet chapters such as Rolling Thunder Run to the Wall.
"I don't want to see contemporaries of mine who have been injured on the line of duty never get to sit or stand before the memorial that eventually gets built because of challenges," said Brennan, a former Army UH-60 pilot.
The group is working on an internal business plan before they reach out to more grass-roots veterans and veterans-support groups across the country and in Washington, Brennan said. Brennan knows his first order of change is to work with members of Congress to amend the Commemorative Works Act, which specifies that a decade must pass after a war's end before work on a memorial can begin.
"In the nature of modern warfare, it just can't work like that," he said of the continuing conflict, one that has called for at least 5,500 troops to remain in Afghanistan through 2017.
The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America organization, in its new, wide-ranging policy agenda, agrees. The group, pinpointing the need for a monument, recommends allocating government funding as soon as possible, and to reserve space for the post-9/11 veterans and Gold Star families before this case becomes another World War II Memorial — one which took over 50 years to engineer.
"We all have mutual goals here," said Tom Porter, legislative director at IAVA. "I think this blueprint will be well-received, and ... what I'm encouraged by is ... the amount of good will and commitment there already is to work toward this."
Porter said IAVA has reached out to each of the 2016 presidential candidates to encourage them to stake out positions for a post-9/11 veterans memorial. "This isn't just a congressional effort, or a grass-roots effort, but an appeal for larger parties as well," he said.
Scruggs said the initiative will have some "recognizable names" within military leadership also backing it.
"I think that those who've served in Afghanistan and Iraq should know there's a lot of us ready to work on this, and we're going to get it done," Scruggs said.