A nonprofit group that has spearheaded efforts to erect a memorial to Operation Desert Storm a short distance from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial has an ambitious goal to raise the last $20 million of funding so that they may break ground on the project this year, the 30th anniversary of the war.
Scott Stump, president and CEO of the National Desert Storm War Memorial Association spoke recently with Military Times, updating the status of the project.
Congress authorized construction of the National Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial in 2014 and President Barack Obama signed that bill into law shortly afterward. President Donald Trump signed a bill that authorized the memorial to be built near the National Mall in Washington.
In 2018, the National Park Service and National Capital Planning Commission recommended the site, which was approved later that year by the Commission of Fine Arts.
In February 2019, the association held a site dedication ceremony for the future memorial. Former Vice President Dick Cheney, who served as defense secretary during the war, spoke at the event, as did retired Air Force Gen. Charles Albert “Chuck” Horner, who commanded U.S. and allied air operations during the war.
Gathering interest and support for the memorial actually began in 2010. Though it took much of the next decade to get to this point, much of that was to ensure the memorial would be in a prominent spot, near the Vietnam and Korean War memorials.
“Given the fact that the maximum number of people would be able to visit this, we felt location was paramount,” Stump said.
That meant limiting some of the early design features that may have risen higher than allowed and also navigating a more lengthy approval process due to the location.
“We’re not just interested in visibility, but ‘visit-ability,’” Stump said.
Along the way, the foundation raised nearly $10 million of the anticipated $40 million price tag, partly through site award money and nearly half through donations by individuals, businesses, foreign governments and Veterans Service Organizations, according to the NDSWMA.
The government of Kuwait has pledged $10 million to the project. That leaves an estimated $20 million to be raised before the groundbreaking can take place, according to federal rules, which require funds before construction commences.
Stump said the organization is pursuing various angles and he is confident that they will meet the funding goal.
At the same time, they are awaiting final design approval from the National Endowment for the Arts, National Park Service and Commission of Fine Arts. Those are expected to happen this summer, he said.
Some of the same entities approved the conceptual design and final site plan in 2019. But the details of the presentation must be reviewed before they can begin building.
The design — a stone, sand-colored sweeping left hook around an elevated pool of water — symbolizes the left hook that U.S.-led coalition forces took coming out of Saudi Arabia and then swept into southern Iraq and Kuwait to outflank Iraqi troops.
The original design featured raised walls and did not contain a water feature.
The final design will include “detailing quotes, fonts, images, bronze sculptures and carvings,” according to an association statement.
The memorial design also features the coalition nation names and relief imagery of the conflict and liberation of Kuwait.
The sweeping left hook will ascend from the entrance into the center water feature and embedded wall features.
Todd South has written about crime, courts, government and the military for multiple publications since 2004 and was named a 2014 Pulitzer finalist for a co-written project on witness intimidation. Todd is a Marine veteran of the Iraq War.