The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, opened in 1982, was the first national war memorial constructed in Washington, D.C. U.S. Rep. Jared Golden and other veterans are working to ensure another monument is constructed to honor those who fought in the Global War on Terrorism. Tamar Gorgadze/Youth Journalism International

U.S. Rep. Jared Golden of Lewiston hopes someday to take his baby daughter, Rosemary, to a memorial in Washington dedicated to the men and women who served their nation during the Global War on Terrorism and tell her what it meant to his life.

Golden, who joined the Marines after 9/11 and served in Afghanistan and Iraq, doesn’t know when the memorial will be built or exactly where it’s going to be. He can’t even say for sure that the war will be over by then.

But thanks to a successful bipartisan push that he and other congressional veterans made in 2021 to get the project a prime location in the nation’s capital, he is confident the day will eventually arrive.

“It’s really important to me that the country doesn’t ever forget” the sacrifices made after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Golden said in a recent interview.

Providing a permanent, high-profile place for people “to gather, reflect and heal,” he said, is a way to honor “an entire generation of Americans who served” in the country’s longest-running war.

“It’s going to be art,” said the president of the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation, Michael “Rod” Rodriguez, a former U.S. Army Green Beret sniper who deployed 10 times during 21 years in uniform. “That’s the only way to convey the story and share the emotions.”


Michael “Rod” Rodriguez is president and CEO of the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation. Submitted photo

Golden, a second-term Democrat from Maine’s 2nd District, said the bipartisan For Country Caucus, a group of 26 veterans who serve in the U.S. House, decided a year ago to push an issue that had to be addressed before the memorial could move forward: where to put it.

Rodriguez said backers had a clear answer. They want it on “our nation’s front lawn,” not far from the most-visited sites in Washington such as the Lincoln Memorial and the memorials that honor the veterans of Vietnam, Korea and World War II.

Several of the possible sites for the Global War on Terrorism Memorial are near the Tidal Basin between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. Steve Collins/Sun Journal

The hitch that proponents faced is that two decades ago, Congress passed a law that barred the placement of any more memorials within an area in the District of Columbia known as the National Reserve, basically the space in and around the National Mall and Tidal Basin.

At the time, legislators were responding to criticism that without the prohibition, the lovely and largely open space would ultimately become little more than a clogged showcase for countless worthy causes.

Bureaucrats warned Rodriguez that trying to get an exemption would fail, that others who have sought one could not get Congress to endorse their cause.

Rodriguez, though, didn’t hesitate. He said he told the experts, “OK, cool, that’s what we’ve got to do.”


He said he approached the For Country Caucus, which Golden co-chairs, and explained the problem.

Its members “didn’t just sponsor” a bill to clear the way for the new memorial on prime real estate, he said, “they championed it” by buttonholing colleagues and pressing the issue constantly.

“They went out there and rallied support among their peers,” Rodriguez said.

U.S. Rep. Jared Golden

Golden, he said, was a key player.

“He’s an awesome guy. I love Jared to death,” said Rodriguez, who lives near Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

He said the new memorial was never a political issue. It attracts support from both sides of the aisle, he said, because it has “no sides” except for the country.


Golden said his congressional predecessors, well-meaning as they were when they closed off the National Reserve, “erred because they didn’t have the benefit of knowing” what lay ahead: two decades of warfare to track down and stamp out the terrorists who used hijacked airliners to strike at the United States.

He said backers of the memorial wound up focusing on three potential sites. Two of them currently consist mostly of athletic fields, the JFK Hockey Fields and West Potomac Park. The other site is part of a garden created decades ago after the removal of temporary office buildings erected during World War II.

Golden said supporters would lead jogs or walks to the locations to show hesitant members their ideas for creating an exception to the 2003 law that prohibited anything new.

Rather than specify which site to use, though, memorial proponents wound up writing a provision that merely provided the new memorial would be somewhere within the National Reserve but left it to experts to decide among them.

The World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.  Steve Collins/Sun Journal

To get the provision approved, Golden said, members of the caucus reached out to colleagues to round up as many co-sponsors to the measure as possible. Veterans organizations pushed as well, he said.

“It wasn’t a given that it would be approved,” he said, but with enough coaxing and prodding, it got done.


Ultimately, the House amended the defense appropriations bill to include a section that gave a green light to putting the new memorial on the National Mall or close by. President Joe Biden signed it into law in December.

What that means, Golden said, is that maybe in 10 or 15 years, he’ll be able to take his daughter, now just a baby, to a memorial that he helped shepherd through Congress to honor the millions of Americans who fought in Afghanistan, Iraq and other far-flung locales to take on terrorists.

Rodriguez said Golden may not have to wait that long.

He said he hopes to have a site nailed down this year. Then it will take about four years to decide exactly what should go on the site and then 18 to 24 additional months to build it, Rodriguez said.

Once a spot is selected, the Global War on Terrorism Foundation will lead the effort to raise money for the memorial, design it and construct it. When it’s all done, the federal government would take over the oversight and maintenance of the memorial.

The first order of business, though, is to settle on the exact site, since that’s a necessity for anyone trying to figure out a design.


Rodriguez said the foundation expects to present between seven and nine possible locations within the National Reserve to the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission that oversees plans and projects in Washington.

For each prospective site, he said, the foundation must develop ideas that touch on how it will look and fit into its surroundings. Essentially, he said, it should answer, “What is this memorial to be?”

The Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Steve Collins/Sun Journal

All three of the places identified early on as potential sites have pros and cons, but each is close at hand to popular tourist sites, guaranteeing the new memorial won’t be overlooked.

The JFK Hockey Fields are on the south side of the Reflecting Pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial, between the memorials for the Korean War Veterans Memorial and the World War II Memorial.

West Potomac Park is on the west side of the Tidal Basin, across from the Jefferson Memorial and close to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial.

The third site, Constitution Gardens, are on the north side of the Reflecting Pool, beside the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.


Since 9/11, nearly three million Americans have served in the Global War on Terrorism. More than 7,000 U.S. military personnel have died in combat. Rodriguez said he also wants to ensure that it honors the more than 3,400 civilian personnel who died as well serving alongside the military.

Rodriguez said that trying to get everything right sometimes keeps him up at night, because it’s so important to create a place that serves so many purposes simultaneously, a spot where veterans like Golden can go to remember, and future generations may go to learn.

“It’s absolutely terrifying,” he said, but it’s also “an extreme honor” to have a pivotal role in an endeavor that means so much to so many.

The memorial, he said, “will educate our nation and our world about the brave men and women” who served in a long-running, difficult war that isn’t yet over.

“It’s an amazing opportunity for us as a nation to step forward and honor them,” he said.

Three yellow circles identify possible sites for a proposed war on terror memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. One site is next to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, one is next to the Reflecting Pool, and one is near the Roosevelt Memorial. Winstanley Architects & Planners

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