South-facing elevation of the memorial (The National Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial)
Written by Todd DePastino
Ground broke this summer for a National Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial in Washington, DC, just off the National Mall. The moment was twelve years in the making, preceded by agonizing labors of design, site selection, official approval and, of course, fundraising. A pledge by the government of Kuwait to cover all remaining costs triggered the ceremony on July 14 at a site five hundred feet away from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Gulf War Marine veteran Scott Stump, CEO of the National Desert Storm War Memorial Association, said the park-like memorial will educate visitors about the 1990-1991 war. Unlike the mournful Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which emphasizes healing and reconciliation, the new memorial is intended to explain the war and honor the sacrifices of those who fought it.
Birds-eye rendering of the National Desert Shield and Desert Storm War Memorial (The National Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial)
In 2010, during the 20th anniversary of Operation Desert Shield, Stump realized his war was in danger of becoming a historical footnote. Sandwiched between Vietnam and the then-current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US-led effort to drive Iraqi invaders out of Kuwait was being forgotten.
The design process began with a simple survey distributed to Desert Storm and Desert Shield veterans asking what they believed was historically significant about the war, what about it should be memorialized for posterity, and what the memorial should look like.
Survey replies shaped the memorial’s final design, which omits the names of the 96 Americans killed in action. Instead, the memorial reflects the war’s desert environment, includes statues of soldiers wearing chemical warfare protective gear, and represents the war’s signature “left hook” maneuver by ground troops—the drive by the US Army through the Saudi desert to cut off Iraqi forces and compel their quick capitulation.
South-facing view with Lincoln Memorial in the background (The National Desert Storm and Desert Shield Memorial)
Actual construction on the memorial will begin next year and will be completed for a dedication on November 11, 2024.
Watch our VBC Happy Hour from February 2021 for the 30th anniversary of Operation Desert Storm at https://youtu.be/Kk6XmFBifaM (or go to veteransbreakfastclub.org/blog and scroll down). Memorial architect Randy Schumacher talks about the design process and symbolism of the memorial. Several veterans of Desert Storm, including Marines Brad Washabaugh and Leon Mickens, Army veterans Cee Freeman, Patrick Dubiel, and Rick Altman, and Navy veteran Chris Pirollo share their stories. And Gold Star Mother Christine Jensen remembers her son, Brian Simpson, who was killed by a Scud missile on February 25, 1991. You can view more about the memorial at the National Desert Shield and Desert Storm War Memorial website: ndswm.org.