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Inside the complicated process of building a new national memorial

Building a national memorial to the lives lost in the Global War on Terror requires new laws, layers of bureaucracy and millions of dollars.
Inside the complicated process of building a new national memorial
Posted at 5:51 PM, May 29, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-29 17:52:42-04

Memorials to fallen war heroes are always powerful, but especially so on Memorial Day weekend.

For years, the fallen from wars like the Vietnam War and the Korean War have been remembered on the National Mall and in communities around the country.

But what about those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq or Afghanistan?

It turns out that building a national memorial is easier said than done.

The United States has now been out of Iraq and out of Afghanistan for nearly two years, ending conflicts that began over 20 years ago. 7,000 service members have died in post-9/11 operations.

And while across the country in cities like Hermitage, Pennsylvania and Kokomo, Indiana there are small tributes to the Global War on Terror, so far a national memorial does not exist on the National Mall in Washington.

Michael Rodriguez, the CEO of the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation, explains why.

"We had to seek an exemption from a law that says a war has to be over for a period of 10 years in order for a national war memorial to be built," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez says in 2015 he and others began convincing lawmakers to change the law, an effort which resulted in then-President Donald Trump granting an exemption in 2017.

6 years later though, in Washington, there is still no memorial. Ground has yet to be broken.

"It's an incredibly complex process," Rodriguez said. " The way I describe what we do is I want you to imagine a public piece of civic art that everybody has input on, on land you cannot buy, with 20 layers of bureaucracy and politics."

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Rodriguez tells us, however, that the land has been selected, just to north of the Lincoln Memorial, but to get approval to use that land required another law which President Biden signed in 2021. To make things even more complicated, Rodriguez says taxpayer money will not be used. One hundred million dollars will need to be raised.

"It is a 24-step process to build this," Rodriguez said. "I hope everyone understands this is our nation's front lawn. There is a process."

Currently, Rodriguez says they are on steps 13-19. An architect is expected to be announced later this summer who will then be tasked with design. 

While the memorial may be similar in some ways to existing ones, Rodriguez hopes this tribute feels different.

"I can name 54 friends of mine that never came home, so I want to be able to grab, to honor everybody that served," Rodriguez said.

The goal right now for Rodriguez is to formally dedicate the Global War on Terror Memorial sometime in 2027, 12 years from the time this process began.

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