North Carolina’s agency in charge of monuments is going to make a traveling exhibit about the state’s Persian Gulf War veterans and the 17 state residents who were killed in the war.
Gov. Pat McCrory gave the news on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the massive U.S.-led air campaign against Iraq that began Operation Desert Storm. The exhibit, which state officials said they expect to complete by the end of the summer, was in the making since almost the beginning of the war itself.
In 1991, then-Gov. Jim Martin created a Persian Gul War Memorial Commission. In 1992, the ambassador from Kuwait, which the U.S. helped liberate during the war, pledged $100,000 for a monument to thank North Carolina soldiers who fought in the war. The donation arrived in 1996, the Associated Press reported.
By 2005, a memorial was set to be built on the Halifax Mall on the state capitol grounds in Raleigh, at an estimated cost of $500,000. But the memorial commission was unsuccessful in raising private donations or lobbying lawmakers to pay for the remaining cost of the monument. Then-Commission Chairman Mike Chapman, whose brother Army Sgt. Chris Chapman died in the war, was so frustrated that no monument seemed in sight, that he quit his position in 2008.
“We're in the midst of another war and they're sending our men and women home in body bags,” Chapman said in 2008, according to the Charlotte Observer. “How can we expect families to send their youth off to war when their service is not appreciated, and in most cases just forgotten?”
The Kuwaiti donation was unused, and Chapman recently asked state officials to make the long-planned monument, said Ilario Pantano, director of the state Division of Veterans Affairs. Now, instead of building a permanent monument, the state Department of Natural and Cultural Resources will use the $100,000 donation to create a traveling exhibit, Pantano said.
Chapman, who lobbied four governors for the monument, is glad the state will give the Gulf War visible recognition, though he’s disappointed it won’t be as a permanent monument, he said this week.
“We'll see what they come up with,” Chapman said this week, according to the Charlotte Observer. “If I see that they built something that looks like it cost $20,000, you can bet I'm going to be asking, ‘Where’s the rest of the $80,000?’”