Although the global war on terrorism continues as a long-running military campaign, a group of Philadelphians aims to create a memorial for those who have lost their lives fighting terrorists.
“I would just like it to be a tribute to the service members and their families,” said Dave Henderson, president of the Pennsylvania Global War on Terrorism Memorial’s board and a native of the Roxborough/Manayunk area. “I would like a place for the families to pay tribute, to grieve, and to be able to memorialize the service of the soldiers.”
Henderson is a West Point graduate who served two tours, one in Afghanistan and one in Mosul. After he returned home from Afghanistan, he recalled talking about the idea of a memorial for this war’s soldiers with fellow vets in 2014 for the families who supported soldiers through multiple rotations.
“For this war, a lot of families knew the service members going over for a year, coming home for nine months or a year, and then they’re going right back,” Henderson said. “That’s what happened for a long time until maybe 2010 when the drawdown started.”
Every soldier lost friends, Henderson said, adding that he knows a Pennsylvania National Guard soldier who was traveling in a van with a unit of five when they were attacked. Three were killed, and one survived but was so severely injured he had to have half his brain removed.
The memorial is still in the fundraising stages and a design is not finalized, although Henderson said they intend to incorporate into its design the names of the 288 Pennsylvania soldiers who died around the world as part of this conflict.
Separate plans are also in the works for a national memorial to the Global War on Terrorism, which would be sited on the National Mall in Washington, but that process takes quite a bit longer.
Andrew Brennan, founder and executive director of the Global War on Terrorism Foundation, said he hopes to see the national memorial installed in 2024. Federal legislation was introduced recently to make that vision a reality.
“We have no issues with anybody wanting to build local memorials to honor the service and sacrifices of folks who have been doing this work over the past 15 to 16 years,” Brennan said. “There are memorials for World War II all over the United States.”
Supporters of the Philadelphia memorial need to raise about $250,000, Henderson said. He is hoping to open the memorial near Penn’s Landing, on the same section of Front Street that features Philadelphia’s Vietnam and Korean war memorials.
“We have a lot of work to do still,” he said, “but we hope to bring credit to those lives and the families who have sacrificed so much for our country.”