Veteran services

A veteran of the Gulf War Memorial in Summerwood will participate in the national inauguration

The quiet evening of January 17, 1991 turned into hell when US and allied forces began raining down Tomahawk missiles on Iraqi targets, the first coming from the destroyer USS Paul F. Foster and a volley of more than 100 all through the night. .

At 550 mph, the missiles found their first target just after 1:41 a.m. Baghdad time. It was the launch of the Persian Gulf War ranging from Operation Desert Shield to Desert Storm. During the night, the USS Foster launched nine of these Tomahawks as part of their mission.

Some 30 years later, those who fought and died in the Persian Gulf War will be commemorated with a memorial on the Mall in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, July 14 at 10 a.m. Eastern Time. southwest corner of Constitution Avenue and 23rd Street NW. .

“As the lead of the planning and design team, I, along with the rest of our organization, are excited to be moving through the final phase of design approval in conjunction with our architecture and design team. creation. In particular, we are extremely grateful to the National Park Service for allowing us to ceremonially break ground prior to final design approval, which we aim to achieve in less than a year,” said Kyle B. Leggs, LTC ( R), from the NDSMA.

Among those celebrating the fundraising success and legislation needed to make the iconic memorial a reality is a Summerwood businessman who served during the ODSDS.

“I was an airborne paratrooper raised from Fort Bragg and the 82nd Airborne Division, just a young soldier fresh out of jump school, and my first exercise was Desert Shield,” Corp. Cee Freeman (R). Freeman is now vice chairman of the board of the National Desert Storm War Memorial Association whose mission is to erect the memorial in Washington by 2024.

The organization has worked tirelessly since 2011 to fulfill its singular mission in building the memorial and it has been a journey for veterans who admit they are new to fundraising and working in the halls of Congress.

The nearly $40 million building will commemorate those who made the ultimate sacrifice and for the victory that the battle brought to history.

“It was the first time there was an all-volunteer since the Vietnam War,” he said. He also recalled the shame wrongfully piled on soldiers returning from Vietnam and the fallout.

“At the time, nobody really gave up their first-class seats or seats for soldiers returning from war. I know it was a bad experience for them for sure. Victory (of the Gulf War) is what we love (as Americans) and the world came together and did bad, good,” he said.

Of the eight board members, six of them are veterans of Desert Shield, Desert Storm.

Board Chairman Scott Stump started the process thinking Gulf War veterans should be recognized by a memorial in Washington.

“It took him several years, physically walking the halls of Congress and the Senate to push through legislation for the memorial,” Freeman said. Stump started the campaign in 2011 on the 20th anniversary of the Gulf War.

In May 2014, a bill was introduced in the United States House of Representatives which voted unanimously to authorize the construction of a Desert Storm and Desert Shield memorial by a vote of 370 vote against 0.

Two significant signings followed with President Barack Obama in December 2014 signing into law legislation authorizing the organization to build the National Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial in Washington, D.C.

In March 2017, President Donald J. Trump signed a bill allowing the memorial to be built near the National Mall in an Area 1 location, considered a prime location because it is near the Vietnam War Memorial. and the Lincoln Memorial.

“They gave us about 120 potential sites that have been designated for memorials around Washington and Virginia. We limited ourselves to our top five,” he said. When they turned to the site they were approved for, they still needed a law that would deem the memorial worthy of a place considered sacred ground near the Lincoln Memorial. The process, with many meetings, took nearly three years.

“This site is about 300 yards from the Lincoln Memorial where we should see a lot of traffic,” he said. Before COVID, Freeman said the Lincoln Memorial saw about 9 million visitors.

CSO Architects’ first architectural design in Indianapolis was their first effort, but at the time they didn’t know how much space they would get, and it was near the Lincoln Memorial which couldn’t be eclipsed. The design is always smooth as it goes through the approval process.

Fundraising was slow at first until Veterans of Foreign Wars stepped in and offered half a million for the project.

“We used Facebook to help us (as a) platform to help us raise funds and awareness,” he said, but that was still far from their goal.

Freeman first heard about the organization during one of their fundraisers for a golf tournament in Austin. He comes from a design background as a construction contractor in Houston.

“I heard about the memorial from a friend, and they asked me to be on the design team,” he said.

Since then, he has held the position of vice-president, but continues his work within the design team, his specialty.

This is his seventh year on the board and fundraising continues to complete the memorial.

“We even received a donation from the State of Kuwait which enabled us to go ahead with the groundbreaking ceremony on July 14,” he said.

With inflationary costs affecting them like everyone else, the cost of the project has increased significantly, but Freeman said they will achieve their goal with the help of public and private donors.

The stone will be quarried in Brazil and will be shipped to Italy where the sculptors will do their work.

Freeman asked customers to visit the website at www.ndswm.org to make donations to the memorial. Donors of one million dollars, individuals or companies, and more will have their name on a donation plaque on the site. In years past, this was not allowed, but Congress passed a law allowing recognition.

A live stream of the groundbreaking will appear on the website beginning at 7:50 a.m. central time on Thursday, July 14.

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