The last time Jan Scruggs decided there needed to be a national memorial honoring American service members killed on a battlefield, it became his life’s mission. The founder of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund is not looking to re-create that sort of marathon run. But he is now advocating for the building of a new war memorial, on the national mall, this time honoring service members lost in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Scruggs recently retired from the VVMF. He says he’s enjoying retirement and all the golfing and boating that goes with it. But in a way, he can’t help himself. He says it’s time.
It was time in 1979, too, he thought, to create a physical place where civilians and military could come together and heal following the controversial conflict in Vietnam. Scruggs had not only served and been wounded, he’d become a student of Jungian concepts of societal architypes and the collective unconscious. Interestingly, it took only three years for the completion of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, like Vietnam, are not without controversy, Scruggs notes. He calls Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom “costly enterprises that remain the subject of much finger pointing in Congress but have brought about no discernable conclusion.” He and his cohorts had a mantra, however, in 1979: Separate the War from the Warrior. He says it’s a practice that should hold true today, when considering those military lives lost since 2001.
Scruggs is currently gathering potential committee members who can bring in some sizeable donations and who know how to wind their way through Congress. What stands in the way on Capitol Hill is a 1986 law called the “Commemorative Works Act,” prohibiting any war memorial from being approved until a decade after the declared end of the conflict. The problem is, the “War on Terror” may never have an end. The act, Scruggs says, needs to be repealed.
“Whether or not you agreed with either war, the sacrifice and dedication of those service members needs to be remembered,” says Scuggs. “The time is now.”