"I chose the song "Somewhere" from West Side Story. One of its lyrics goes, "Hold my hand and I'll take you there." As I sang those words, I saw one man lying on a gurney. He had no hands for me to hold!
But he did have a smile that illuminated the room brighter than any klieg light on a performance stage. With that smile, he took me not "there," but here, to where my life was enlightened, inspired, and forever changed.
I left the Rusk Center that evening with the determination that the courage and tenacity of these veterans would be recognized and honored in perpetuity. I envisioned a memorial which would honor them, their courage and serve to educate all Americans as to the human cost of their sacrifices.
Some years later in Washington, I stood at the Vietnam Wall before my cousin's name. I looked around at the other Memorials. There was Washington, and Jefferson, and Lincoln. But there was no memorial to that quadriplegic at the Rusk Center. There was no permanent monument to these courageous young men and women. They have given so much more than was ever asked for by their fellow citizens.
We, therefore, have a solemn obligation to assure that they will never be forgotten or neglected. I thought to myself, all right, now I am in a position to do something about this. I must."
The Memorial is located at 150 Washington Ave., SW, just across from the U.S. Botanical Gardens and near the Capitol.
I agree that this Memorial is long overdue and I hope it brings some comfort and solace to those injured and disabled in our country's conflicts.
(All Memorial photos courtesy of the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial website.)