Global War on Terrorism memorial one step closer to reality with passing of defense bill

WATCH NOW: Sen. Ernst (R-IA) calls passing of Global War on Terrorism Location Act "a great victory"

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A long-awaited memorial to veterans of the Global War on Terrorism is set to be built on the National Mall after the defense bill passed the Senate on Wednesday.

The Global War on Terrorism Memorial Location Act was introduced in November 2019. It stalled until this year, when President Biden ordered the full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan before Sept. 1, ending the country’s longest war.

The Senate’s version, spearheaded by Sen. Joni Ernst, was added to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). In the House, a version introduced by Reps. Jason Crow, a Colorado Democrat, and Mike Gallagher, a Wisconsin Republican, was passed as an amendment to the NDAA in September.

Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa
(Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

“What we saw was an opportunity with the National Defense Authorization Act to have it included as part of that package,” the Iowa Republican told Fox News. “It’s a great victory.”

“We are happy to have it over this part of the finish line,” said Ernst, who served in Kuwait and Iraq in 2003 with the Iowa National Guard. “It still does have to be signed into law by the president, but we don’t anticipate any problems.”

The bill had bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress.

Veterans and others pay their respects at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington May 31, 2021.
(REUTERS/Michael A. McCoy)

“With the inclusion and passage of the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Location Act in this year’s annual defense bill, we will soon see this bill become law – welcomed news for so many service members and their families who have worked hard to see this happen,” Sen. Maggie Hassan, the lead co-sponsor of the Senate bill, said in a statement.

“I look forward to the president swiftly signing this bipartisan bill into law so we can get to work on building this memorial on the Mall,” the New Hampshire Democrat continued.

In 2017, President Trump signed the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Act, which authorized the memorial on federal land in Washington, D.C., but it did not provide a specific location.

The legislation met resistance from the National Parks Service. The acting associate director of park planning told a Senate subcommittee that the area in question, known as “the reserve,” was a “completed work.”

Flags are seen on the National Mall with the U.S. Capitol behind them. (AP)

“Congress amended the Commemorative Works Act of 1986 in 2003, establishing the ‘Reserve’ and declaring it a completed work of civic art where ‘the siting of new commemorative works is prohibited,’” the official, Michael Caldwell, testified in June.

Ernst’s office told Fox News that Wednesday’s bill waives the Commemorative Works Act and now requires the National Parks Service to work with the Global War on Terrorism Foundation to find a location on the National Mall.

“My message to those Gold Star families is: your loved ones will not be forgotten,” Ernst said. “There are so many families that have given so much through their loved ones’ selfless sacrifice, and this will be a place of memories for those families.

“It will be a place of healing for every service member that served in the Global War on Terror,” she told Fox News.

Audrey Conklin contributed to this report.

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