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Injured Vets to Get DC Memorial        07/23 06:30

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Army Lt. Dawn Halfaker was on patrol 10 years ago in 
Baqubah, Iraq, when a rocket-propelled grenade tore through her military 
vehicle and exploded inside.

   When she woke up from a coma, the West Point graduate found out her right 
arm was gone and her career as a military officer was over at age 24. It's the 
kind of sacrifice millions of U.S. soldiers have made dating back to the 
American Revolution. Veterans groups say there as many as 4 million living 
today with the scars of war.

   Now Halfaker will be among those pictured in a new memorial rising near the 
National Mall within view of the U.S. Capitol. The American Veterans Disabled 
For Life Memorial will be the first memorial in Washington dedicated to 
veterans who come home with life-changing injuries. It's a project 16 years in 
the making and is set to be dedicated Oct. 5.

   Glass walls will carry inscriptions and photographs telling veterans' 
stories from different eras. Bronze silhouette sculptures will represent their 
service. A ceremonial flame will burn on the water's surface in a star-shaped 
fountain representing the five branches of military service, surrounded by a 
grove of trees. The idea was inspired by the camaraderie of soldiers' campfires 
and the flame as a symbol of renewal, designer Michael Vergason said.

   "I think it will bring it home for visitors. I think it will give people a 
better understanding of how somebody's life is forever changed and really help 
them understand the sacrifice a little bit more," Halfaker said. "It's hard to 
explain to somebody what being in combat is like."

   Halfaker created a consulting business after leaving the military and serves 
as chairwoman of the Wounded Warrior Project. The only thing she doesn't like 
about the memorial, she said, is the term disabled. She doesn't think of 
herself that way.

   Construction has been underway for nearly a year and the memorial plaza was 
taking shape as The Associated Press had a look at its progress. Workers have 
been installing black stone elements for a fountain and reflecting pool. A 
Rhode Island stone carver is working to hand-carve inscriptions from George 
Washington and Dwight Eisenhower, in the site's marble Wall of Gratitude.

   Those who planned the memorial near the Capitol wanted to ensure lawmakers 
and their staffs see the memorial each day "and realize there's a human cost 
when you send our troops into harm's way," said project executive W. Barry 
Owenby, who is also a veteran.

   While controversies have arisen over other memorials honoring Eisenhower, 
Martin Luther King Jr. and World War II veterans, this project has not drawn 
the same scrutiny or criticism. But it has gone through the same oversight 
reviews as any other memorial project.

   "Who could take issue with honoring those who have given a life sacrifice?" 
said Arthur Wilson, a disabled Vietnam veteran and co-founder of the Disabled 
Veterans' Life Memorial Foundation that is building the memorial. "It's a 
reminder that needs to be there every day."

   The project is even more timely now, he said, considering the revelations of 
health care problems in the Department of Veterans Affairs.

   The idea began in 1998 with Florida philanthropist Lois Pope, former 
Veterans Affairs Secretary Jesse Brown and Wilson, and it quickly drew support 
in Congress. By 2000, the authorizing legislation was signed by President Bill 
Clinton.

   While some memorial projects rely on federal dollars, this memorial has been 
funded almost entirely with privately raised funds. Organizers raised about $80 
million from more than a million donors. The Disabled American Veterans 
organization contributed about $10 million. Pope and her foundation also 
contributed about $10 million. A federal grant of about $6 million was secured 
to remove a road that crossed the site. The memorial will eventually be 
operated by the National Park Service.

   Once it's finished, Vergason, the site's designer, said the fall will be a 
perfect time to visit. The memorial includes a grove of ginkgo trees that turn 
yellow in early November, just in time for Veterans Day.


(KA)


 
 
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