Published On: Wed, Dec 2nd, 2020

The Long Process Of Creating And Constructing A Veteran’s Memorial

It can be quite a challenge to plan and build veteran war memorials. You have to get a group together. The group has to come up with the funding. The idea has to be approved. It helps to get a celebrity or two involved.

stock photo supplied by Find a Grave

Get the Group Together

One of the first things to do is to get a group together that has board members who can get the funding for the veteran war memorials. The group has to know what the cost will be, what the approval process is, and what legislation may be required.

Choose The Right Location

Cities like Washington, D.C. already have a lot of memorials. This means that politicians and city leaders could be reluctant to approve more veteran war memorials. The battlefield of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania is another good example. It’s filled to overflowing with statues, markers, and more. The task of choosing the correct site is likely to be the most formidable task a group will face. In Washington, groups tend to want their monuments at or near the National Mall. This is almost impossible now. Groups will spend as much time deciding where to put it as they spend on almost anything else.

Get Through The Legislated Red Tape

In Washington, there is a harrowing 24-step process that groups have to go through in order to get a memorial built there. That process is overseen by an advisory commission that works with the National Park Service.

Groups that want to put a memorial on or near the National Mall have a total of seven years to finish their projects. Groups often have to apply for extensions because they weren’t able to raise enough money. Since 1986, 37 memorials have been applied for in Washington. Of those 37, 19 have been completed. 12 are in the process of being built.

The Commemorative Works Act, which is referred to as the CWA for short, was established in 1986. It contained the legal process involved in putting war memorials in the District of Columbia. The CWA has divided Washington into three sections: The Reserve, Area I, and Area II.

  • The Reserve:

This area comprises the National Mall. Its borders run from the U.S. Capital to the Lincoln Memorial. Its borders also run between the White House and the Jefferson Memorial. As a rule, the placement of new memorials in this area is prohibited because it is felt that the National Mall is already full of such memorials.

  • Area I:

Area I runs from the West Frond of the Capital, Pennsylvania Avenue from 1st Street to 15th Street, Lafayette Square, 17th Street, Constitution Avenue, and the “Kennedy Center For The Performing Arts.” The boundaries also include the “George Washington Memorial Parkway”, Independence Avenue, Maryland Avenue, and more.

  • Area II:

Area II encompasses anything in the District of Columbia that is not covered by The Reserve or Area I.

Names of Vietnam veterans at Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
photo Hu Totya via wikipedia

It May Take An Act Of Congress To Get It Approved.

Congress authorized the NCPC and the CFA to approve designs for war memorials. It can be a daunting challenge to come up with a design that meets the specifications that are required. Its usually essential for a group to come up with several designs and present them for approval. Many governing bodies want to look over several designs before one is settled upon.

Money Is Everything

When you have the proper location and the design has been approved, there is the matter of fundraising to be considered. Although most groups don’t envision any problems with that, challenges can ensue.

To build a monument in Washington, groups have seven years to get the funding in place. That sounds like a long time, but several groups have to apply for and get extensions because they aren’t able to raise the cash they need. Unfortunately, in some cases they have to cancel their plans altogether.

While it is generally true that Federal Funds aren’t supposed to be used to build memorials, there have been exceptions to that in the past. The Martin Luther King Memorial is one example. Congress did make Federal Funds available for that monument.

As a part of raising funds, it can be very helpful to get a celebrity on board with your planned memorial. Gary Sinise has been involved in this process. The same is true of other famous people. In order to get a famous person involved in your project, either you have to know that person or your group has to have the connections needed in order to get that person’s attention. This almost always means that someone has to be involved with the right people in Hollywood.

What Has Failed?

It might be helpful to look at one example of a proposal that didn’t get off the proverbial ground. There was once a plan to build a “Vietnam Veterans Memorial Visitors Center.” The idea for the center was approved. A location was found. It was to be placed between the “Vietnam Veterans Memorial” and the “Lincoln Memorial.” The design was approved in 2015. Everything was going along just great until the funding ran out. After the period of time for funding it expired twice, the idea had to be called off. The center never got built.

Finish It!

If you have a good idea for a memorial, that’s a start. Unfortunately, that’s only a start.

Get a group together that can fight for the memorial, get someone to design it, and get a design approved. IT goes without saying that the group also has to be able to raise the money that will be needed. It will be far easier to get the money you need if you can get a celebrity or two involved.

Take the legal steps that are needed to get the idea and the design approved by the appropriate governing bodies. That includes the very important step of finding an appropriate location.

After getting the group together, putting the funding in place, and cutting through the proverbial red-tape, there is one last step: Build the memorial! How long does it take to get a memorial built? Well, A World War I Memorial was approved for Washington in 2014. It’s now being designed. A war memorial for Desert Storm was approved in 2014. It’s being designed now. A “Korean War Memorial Wall Of Remembrance” was approved in 2016. It is now being designed.

Author: Brenda Vollman

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