Each year, hundreds of thousands of tourists descend upon Washington, D.C. to visit the Vietnam War, the Korean War, and the National World War II memorials. While these monuments honor the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, until now there hasn’t been a memorial to honor those that didn’t lose their lives, but that suffer from lifelong wounds.
The American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, set for dedication on October 5, will commemorate those whose service has left their bodies permanently damaged, as well as the caretakers who help them get through each day.
Jacqueline Klimas of the Washington Times interviewed two of the memorial’s honorees — Dennis Joyner, who lost his legs and his left hand while he served in the Army during the Vietnam War, and his wife Donna Joyner, who quit her job in 2008 to take care of him full time — about the sort of sacrifice that goes on every day in this country but receives little recognition. “We all sacrifice a lot. We don’t live our lives the same as anybody else,” she says.
Joyner serves as the secretary on the board that planned the $80 million memorial, which features reflections from disabled veterans and their caretakers, such as, “When you’re young, you’re invincible. You’re immortal. I thought I’d come back. Perhaps I wouldn’t, there was this thought, too, but I had this feeling that I would come back. Underneath that feeling there was another, that maybe I wouldn’t be quite the same, but I felt I’d make it back.”
The memorial is completely handicap accessible and features bronze sculptures that blind veterans are encouraged to touch and a star-shaped fountain — its five sides representing each of the military branches.
The memorial is located in a park on Capitol Hill, where legislators will be able to see it. “Maybe the lawmakers will be reminded that this is what happens and [that] we deal with it every day,” Joyner tells Klimas.