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Two men from region helping make national Desert Storm memorial a reality

John Thompson • Updated Feb 17, 2018 at 9:34 PM

More than a quarter century after Operation Desert Storm, a monument to honor the more than 650,000 Americans who served in the war and remember the 383 who died is about to become a reality on the nation’s mall. Last year, President Donald Trump signed Senate Joint Resolution 1 approving the location of the monument in the District of Columbia.

It has taken several years of convincing veterans and citizens, but it now appears the monument will be completed by 2021. Two men from this region — Scott C. Stump and Phil Roe — have played key roles in the effort.

Stump lives in the mountain town of Waynesville, N.C. He is a Marine Corps officer who served in support of Desert Shield/Desert Storm. For the past several years he has served as chief executive officer and president of the National Desert Storm War Memorial Association, a 501(c)(3) organization.

The other monument supporter from the region is Roe, the congressman from Upper East Tennessee, just over the mountains from Waynesville. Roe introduced the National Desert Storm and Desert Shield War Memorial Act (H.R. 503) in the House of Representatives in 2014. It was passed by the House on May 28, 2014, by a vote of 370-0.

Roe’s bill authorized the association headed by Stump to establish a “commemorative work” on federal land in the District of Columbia to commemorate Desert Storm veterans. The bill specified that no federal funds would be used to pay any of the expenses in establishing the work.

Roe said his alliance with Stump was not a planned one.

“I first met Scott when I ran into him at Dillard’s in Asheville,” Roe said. He was immediately impressed with the dedicated veteran and his goal.

Stump was also impressed with Roe during that first meeting. He said he had not been able to convince the man who represented Western North Carolina at that time about the importance of his project. He found Roe to be very supportive.

Roe is a veteran of the Vietnam War and he still has strong feelings about the negative reactions many Americans gave to veterans returning from Vietnam. He said those negative feelings were still held by many people right up to the eve of Desert Storm.

Roe said Desert Storm was so successful and happened so quickly that it changed American attitudes and opinions about the military. For a Vietnam veteran, this seemed miraculous.

Roe found it easy to gain unanimous support in the House for his bill. To get it through the Senate, he called an old ally from the House who had gone on to the Senate, John Boozman of Arkansas.

The Senate also passed the bill unanimously.

The legislative work is finished, but Stump and Roe said there are still important hurdles to overcome. One is to secure the exact location where the monument will be erected. Both Stump and Roe are working to convince the Secretary of the Interior and the General Services Administration on the best site for the monument. The preferred site is a lot at the intersection of 23rd Street NW and Constitution Avenue.

Stump said the preferred site is in a section of federal land known as Area 1. It is close to the Vietnam War Memorial and the Korean War Memorial. While speaking at the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Stump mentioned the vital linkage of the Vietnam War with Operation Desert Storm. He attributed the effectiveness of Desert Storm to the fact the military leaders of Desert Storm were all Vietnam veterans.

Roe agrees with Stump on the preferred site. “It just makes a lot of sense to put it there,” the congressman said. “There are monuments that were put in the wrong place in Washington and you just have to wonder why they put it there.”

The memorial will be a curved wall that sweeps north and east, recalling the “left hook” maneuver into the Iraqi that which caught the Iraqi Army by surprise at the first stage of the ground war. The maneuver made it unnecessary for the coalition forces to attack the prepared defenses the Iraqi Army had built on the border between occupied Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, saving many lives on both sides.

The curved wall is made of Kuwaiti limestone. It is designed to provide a visual and acoustical sanctuary from the urban surroundings of Washington. The wall and floor of the memorial are the colors of the sands of the Kuwaiti desert, so familiar to all the veterans of the war.

There is a 150-foot continuous bas-relief carved into the inner surface of the wall. It displays the flags and the fallen from each of the 34 nations in the coalition, the Desert Storm Campaign Ribbons and the continuous historical chronology of the war.

As visitors continue past the bas-relief, they will reach the “inner sanctum” of the memorial. The names of the 383 Americans who died in Desert Storm will be engraved beneath the heading “Here we Mark the Price of Freedom: Visitors will be able to easily view, touch, photograph or create etchings of the names of those men and women who lost their lives in service to their country.

When visitors finally turn their attention away from the names of the fallen, they will be able to view the bronze statues of soldiers directly behind them. The startlingly lifelike renditions show five U.S. servicemen and women wearing gas masks and chemical warfare protective gear. The statues are on the same level with visitors, providing an intimate experience.

Another big hurdle for Stump will be to raise the funds to build the monument. With no federal funds being used, that means all the money to build and to preserve the monument must come from donors.

Donations to the monument may be made by credit card or by Paypal may be made by going to /www.ndswm.org/donate. Checks or money orders made payable to NDSWM may be sent to NDSWM, P.O. Box 29091, Washington, DC 20017.

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