President Obama praised disabled military veterans as he officially opened a memorial in their honor earlier this month. The president said the new memorial recognizes two centuries of Americans who were physically or mentally injured while fighting for the United States.
“From this day forward, Americans will come to this place and ponder the immense sacrifice on their behalf, the heavy burden born by few so that we might live in freedom and peace.”
The memorial sits on a one hectare wide property. At the center is a fountain in the shape of a five-point star. It represents the five branches, or divisions, of the U.S. military. Visitors also will find a reflecting pool made from black granite.
Ron Hope is head of the group Disabled American Veterans. He says the country’s recognition of disabled veterans is a long time coming.
“I think this memorial is going to be a place that not only the disabled veterans themselves, but their families, their survivors, their caregivers, especially their caregivers, and their dependents can come and reflect upon what it cost every day for their blessings and their freedoms in this country.”
Ron Hope is a veteran himself. He lost one of his arms in 1969 during the Vietnam War. He says for many disabled veterans, it is a never-ending struggle to get recognized. He adds that many of them feel invisible.
“Sometimes the American public don’t know how to approach, don’t know how to talk, don’t know how to deal with them, and so, therefore, they avoid them. And that emotionally is worse than the disability itself.”
Philanthropist Lois Pope began campaigning for the memorial almost 20 years ago after she met with soldiers at a rehabilitation center. She is the co-founder of an organization that raised more than $80 million dollars for the memorial. She gave $10 million dollars of her own money to help build the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial.
Ms. Pope explains what she hopes the memorial will accomplish.
“To inform, educate and remind the American people of the sacrifices and the struggles, the continuing struggles, and the lack of recognition and respect we have in this country for disabled vets.”
She says the memorial will always be a sign of strength and hope, and become a place for healing for all disabled veterans and their love ones.
I’m Marsha James.
This story came from VOA reporter Deborah Block. Marsha James wrote it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in this Story
disable - v. to make (someone) unable to do something (such as use part of the body) in the usual way
veteran – n. someone who fought in a war, such as a soldier or sailor
granite – n. a very hard type of rock that is used in buildings and monuments
invisible – adj. unable to be seen
Philanthropist – n a process or way of proceeding that produces a desired result quickly
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