The American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial will be dedicated today in Washington, D.C. Giving $10 million of her own fortune and soliciting millions more from others, Philanthropist Lois Pope convinced others to join her cause to honor U.S. veterans who gave of themselves so that others may be free.
United Press International reported Pope, widow Generoso Pope, the founder of the National Enquirer, was moved to create the memorial when she witnessed an amputee weeping alongside the Vietnam Memorial.
“I went over to hold him,” she said. “As I was turning to go, I saw a Park Service ranger and asked him where the memorial to disabled veterans was. His answer was that there wasn’t one. That did it. That was the catalyst that sent me on a quest that turned into an obsession to build the memorial.”
According to FOX News, Pope, 81, was first moved by the struggle disabled servicemen face when she was performing at a charity program in 1960 for Vietnam War veterans. As she sang the song “Somewhere”, she reached out to hold the hand of a solider on a gurney and realized he had no hand to hold.
Before that moment, she admits she was unaware of the horror of war. “I was naive and pretty clueless about the devastation.”
After her conversation with the ranger, Pope was able to get the support of Jesse Brown, then-Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary and Art Wilson of the Disabled American Veterans organization. After many years of fundraising and gaining the approval of the memorial, the group raised more than $80 million to have the tribute built.
The memorial is situated on a triangle across from the U.S. Botanic Garden. The five points of the star-shaped fountain represent the five branches of the military. There are reflecting pools, bronze relief panels and 48 glass panels that tell the story of wounded veterans. It is surrounded by a grove of trees near the Capitol.
Cauldon Quinn, 42, was wounded while serving as a Navy officer. He is impressed by the dedication and time it took to get the memorial built.
“The country has finally separated the disdain for what politicians do with the military and the service member who sacrifices himself for his country,” he said. “Our country loves the soldier and hates the war. That’s a positive evolution.”
Pope hopes the memorial will remind others of the sacrifices veterans have made and continue to make every day. She said the project is all about “thinking and thanking.”