As a company commander who served in Kuwait and Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom—and someone who spent 23 years of my life serving in the United States military alongside some of the best and brightest our country has to offer—the last few weeks have been extremely difficult to watch. President Biden’s hasty and haphazard withdrawal has led to the disastrous collapse of Afghanistan—abandoning our own citizens and putting our allies in harm’s way. I’ve heard from so many servicemembers and veterans of the Global War on Terrorism during this devastating time, many of whom are disheartened, distraught, and disappointed.
I’ve also heard from so many Gold Star Families who lost their spouses, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters during the Global War on Terrorism. As they’ve watched the Taliban retake control of Afghanistan, many have even questioned if their family member’s sacrifice was worth it.
As a fellow veteran of the Global War on Terrorism, I want them to know that the brave Americans who have kept us safe in the twenty years since September 11, 2001 are heroes—every single one of them. They’ve succeeded in protecting our citizens and allowing us to enjoy the freedoms and liberties we possess every day.
Now more than ever, it’s time we as a nation honor the servicemembers, fallen soldiers, their families, and all those impacted by the Global War on Terrorism with a national memorial.
Since 2017, I’ve been working across the aisle to create a memorial to those who served in our nation’s longest war. I worked with Democratic Senator Joe Manchin to get our bill signed into law to authorize the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation, a private foundation, to begin the process of pursuing the construction of a memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. This was the first step in a process that will culminate with the design and construction of a memorial without using any federal funds. Then, earlier this year, I teamed up with my colleague from New Hampshire, Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan on the Global War on Terrorism Memorial Location Act, which proposed three locations for the memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
This Saturday we will stop to recognize the 20th anniversary of September 11, 2001—a fateful day that forever changed our nation and the lives of so many. But this shouldn’t just be a once-a-year exercise. Americans should have the opportunity to honor those brave men and women who took the fight to the terrorists that attacked our nation. They bravely fought to defend our country from future attacks, and in the process, some sacrificed their life and left behind a grieving family. It’s for these heroes that we need a Global War on Terrorism Memorial. When folks from my home state of Iowa visit our nation’s capital, they should have the opportunity to honor their fellow Iowans and Americans who served our nation honorably during this war. That includes those who tragically lost their lives, like Corporal Daegan William-Tyeler Page who was killed in the Kabul Airport bombing, and was born in my hometown of Red Oak.
The Global War on Terrorism Memorial on our National Mall would be a longstanding testament and reminder of their selflessness for generations to come. On behalf of all my fellow veterans and our servicemembers, I’ll keep fighting relentlessly to make this memorial a reality. May God bless the men and women who served—and continue to serve—the United States of America.
Joni Ernst, a native of Red Oak and a combat veteran, represents Iowa in the United States Senate.