WASHINGTON -- Efforts to build a Desert Storm war memorial are advancing while supporters of a new World War I memorial continue to face opposition.
The liberators of Kuwait will be honored on the National Mall; last month, the Commission of Fine Arts signed off on a location at 23rd Street and Constitution Avenue.
Organizers, including a couple of Arkansans, now need to raise about $25 million to pay for the project. They hope to complete the monument sometime in 2021 -- three decades after the war was won.
The Commission of Fine Arts will meet again July 19, this time to review the latest plans for a new national World War I memorial, which is to be built on Pennsylvania Avenue. Fayetteville native Joseph Weishaar's winning design has evolved considerably since its selection in January 2016.
For National Desert Storm War Memorial officials, last month's 4-2 vote on site selection means that a major hurdle has been cleared.
"Several sites were open for consideration and we hoped and prayed that we would get this one," said Jeff Kurczek of Sherwood, the group's treasurer and chief financial officer. "I'm really excited and relieved."
The Gulf War was sparked by Iraq's invasion of Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990. The U.S. and its allies demanded that Iraq withdraw. War began in January 1991 and ended with the defeat of Iraq on Feb. 28, 1991.
Nearly 700,000 American servicemen were deployed for Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Of those, 383 died in the theater. According to the website for the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture, more than 3,400 Arkansans took part in the war. Four Arkansans died.
Brent Byrd of Elm Springs, who serves with Kurczek on the board, said the organization will continue to work with the Commission of Fine Arts to come up with the final design.
"We're hoping to get that done as soon as possible. At the same time, we're ramping up our fundraising events," he said.
Federal officials aren't predicting how long it will take to complete the process for either memorial.
The Commission of Fine Arts has already discussed the World War I memorial six times.
"Everybody wants the same thing, I think, which is to provide a high-quality lasting memorial that honors the nation's history, those who served, those who sacrificed. But you want to get it right," said Commission of Fine Arts Secretary Thomas Luebke.
The WWI memorial is scheduled to be built at Pershing Park, a 1.76-acre, trapezoid-shaped space near the White House.
The price tag is uncertain because the design is in flux. One estimate has been $40 million.
World War I Centennial Commission officials shared revised versions of the memorial at the Commission of Fine Arts' February and May meetings and are preparing for their latest appearance.
"We are looking forward to CFA's July meeting to review the WWI Memorial design," said World War I commission spokesman Chris Isleib.
The pace of approval isn't unusual, Luebke said.
The Franklin D. Roosevelt memorial was in the works for nearly four decades before it was completed, he noted.
"These big national memorials, literally every single one of them has taken many years," he said.
For Americans, World War I was the 20th century's second-deadliest conflict.
The United States entered the war in April 1917, enabling England, France and their allies to defeat the nations aligned with Germany and Austria-Hungary; after years of bloodshed in Europe, the guns finally fell silent on Nov. 11, 1918.
Millions of people died in the conflict, including more than 116,000 Americans.
Weishaar's original plans called for sweeping changes at Pershing Park. The scope was scaled back, however, after the existing park was declared eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.
Supporters of the existing park design, by M. Paul Friedberg, are fighting to protect the New York landscape architect's original vision.
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Print Headline: Gulf War memorial proposal advances; But pace slows for WWI project