US Army (Ret) and PVA member Gene Murphy. Photo courtesy Gene Murphy.
On Oct. 5, 2014 the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, the first national memorial honoring disabled veterans, will become the Nation's newest landmark
Every year, more than 25 million people from around the world visit the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The Mall is lined with important memorials, each honoring some of America’s greatest heroes. And yet none of these monuments recognizes the millions of disabled American veterans who have selflessly fought for freedom throughout our nation’s history.
This will soon change. On Oct. 5, the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, the first national memorial honoring disabled veterans, will be dedicated. It opens to the public the following day. Within sight of the U.S. Capitol, this new national landmark will serve as a constant reminder of the cost of human conflict.
My own connection to the new American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial is deeply personal — I am a disabled American veteran. As a young Army sergeant in Vietnam in 1960, in an instant, I was paralyzed by two gunshots to my right side, 30 days before I was to return home to the U.S.
Upon my return to South Dakota, I became actively involved in advocating for my fellow disabled service men and women here and across the country. I’m proud to be a part of the small but dedicated group of men and women who have worked tirelessly the past 16 years to turn the memorial into a reality — a gathering place for veterans, their caregivers, families and loved ones.
The AVDLM honors veterans with both physical injuries and disabilities and “invisible” ones, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. It pays tribute to disabled heroes from all conflicts and each branch of the military, the first of the Washington monuments to honor such a broad and diverse group of Americans.
Physically, the memorial is designed to convey a combination of strength and vulnerability, loss and renewal. The story of America’s disabled veterans is complex and multilayered, not easily told by a single statue or plaque. Not only does the memorial cover more than two centuries of heroism and struggle, but it also includes the untold stories of the caregivers, family and friends of our country’s wounded warriors. A star-shaped fountain and reflecting pool, surrounded by glass walls with embedded words and images depicting personal journeys of courage and sacrifice, serves as its focal point, mirroring the flickering light of a ceremonial flame.
Combining solemn reflection and a celebration of bravery and sacrifice, the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial dedication will honor those men and women whose service and struggle, on and off the field of battle, remind us of the true price of the freedoms we enjoy every day.
Come October, for the first time, America will have place to pay tribute to some of our most courageous heroes — our disabled veterans. I encourage my neighbors here in Sioux Falls, veterans from around the country and all those who wish to honor them to come to the dedication ceremony Oct. 5.
The event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. For more information, visit www.avdlm.org.
Reprinted from the Letter to the Editor section of the Argus Leader. All rights reserved.
Dedication Invitation Video