A local U.S. Army veteran and his wife are not only part of a driving force behind a planned war on terrorism memorial in the nation’s capital, but want to help improve the lives of military families.
Bryan and Amanda Asaf, who live in the Big Pool area, are among a group of veterans, federal lawmakers and others who support a planned Global War on Terrorism Memorial in Washington, D.C., to honor those who served in the conflict.
The war on terror began in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which left 2,977 people dead and marked the deadliest attack on the U.S.
Who will build the memorial ?
Nearly 3.5 million men and women served in the war and more than 7,000 never came home. Countless others continue to endure the effects of the conflict.
A group known as the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation is leading the way to plan, fund, design and build the memorial, which supporters want erected on the National Mall where other war memorials stand.
Authorization to build the memorial on the mall was approved when President Joe Biden last month signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act, which dedicates $768.2 billion for defense spending. It also contains language authorizing construction of the memorial in a “reserve” area on the mall.
On Nov. 3, the Asafs joined more than 30 veterans and others on Capitol Hill to urge the U.S. Senate to pass the defense act. The body passed it Dec. 15, following passage by the U.S. House of Representatives on Sept. 23. Appearing with the Asafs during the Nov. 3 event were three bill co-sponsors who are also war on terrorism veterans: U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis. and Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo.
Bryan Asaf was an Army specialist who completed two tours of duty in Iraq. He was medically discharged in 2007 stemming from conditions including a traumatic brain injury.
Bryan, a native of the Houston area, was discharged from Fort Bliss in Texas. Following a time of the couple living in Arizona, Amanda said she and her husband were looking for a good place for their family. They picked her home of Washington County and settled here in 2012.
What is the memorial’s goal ?
The Asafs said in a news release from the Wounded Warrior Project, a supporter of the war on terror memorial, that the memorial will be a way to unify those who served in the war, as well as provide a place for reflection, empowerment and healing.
Amanda said in a recent phone interview that it’s vital to build the memorial on the National Mall and “not somewhere where a tourist would have to take a bus” to visit.
“It’s important for the memorial to be on the Mall where it rightfully belongs,” she said.
Amanda’s dedication to the war’s veterans and their families goes beyond the memorial.
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She is going back to school for a master’s degree in social work so she can help families of veterans. She’s specifically concerned about supporting children of the families who might endure certain hardships as a result of war experience of a family member.
Amanda said the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is focused on the care of veterans, and she said any care for children handled by that agency might be referred to another group that doesn’t have the needed expertise.
“I feel like it’s an unspoken need,” said Amanda, a mother of three children ages 16,13 and 10.
The Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation is the congressionally-designated nonprofit group entrusted with overseeing the establishment of the memorial.
President George W. Bush is the foundation’s honorary chairman, and the president and CEO of the foundation is Michael “Rod” Rodriguez, a longtime war on terrorism veteran and U.S. Army Special Forces Green Beret who was medically discharged due to combat injuries.
When will it be completed ?
In a recent phone interview, Rodriguez said the work of his organization will now focus on a site for the memorial in the reserve area on the mall. That will involve the foundation working with the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission, which advises federal agencies and authorities including the Department of the Interior on establishment of commemorative works in Washington.
Rodriguez said various factors could influence the design of the memorial, including the site’s topography. The foundation will focus on raising $50 million to build it, and it could be completed in four to six years, he said.
To explore a site for the memorial, Rodriguez said the foundation consulted with active-duty service members, veterans and Gold Star families, which are those who have suffered military loss of loved ones.
Overwhelmingly, the opinion was that the memorial needed to be on the National Mall. And the foundation realized that would take federal legislation to do it, Rodriquez said.
“It’s taken us three years to get there, but we’re here,” he said.