Through juxtaposition of granite and glass, the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial conveys a combination of strength and vulnerability, of loss and renewal. Dedicated on October 5, 2014, the Memorial shines a light on the important lessons of courage, sacrifice, tenacity, loyalty and honor by bearing witness to the experiences of war heroes who were disabled as a result of military service. It is the first national memorial dedicated solely to disabled veterans, paying tribute to the hidden and visible disabilities from all conflicts and all branches of service.
The Memorial is located just west of the United States Capitol Building and the United States Botanic Gardens at 150 Washington Avenue, SW, Washington, DC (Washington Avenue & Second Street SW).
Federal Center SW and Capitol South Metro stations are the closest to the Memorial site.
The Memorial's 48 etched glass panels display soldiers' stories through quotations and photographs. Some of these etchings appear on the outside surfaces of the panels, inviting visitors to touch and feel the indentations. Some are on the inside and appear hauntingly translucent. As a result of the laminating process, the Memorial's panels are strong enough to withstand hurricane force winds without bending or breaking. Each panel weighs about 1,800 pounds.
Reflecting Pool and Star Fountain
The centerpiece of the Memorial's design is the star-shaped fountain and triangular reflecting pool. The quiet flow of the water is intended to remind us of how disabled veterans can, with patience, overcome personal obstacles and find new meaning and purpose in their lives. The infinity edge of the pool allows a thin layer of water to continually flow smoothly and evenly over three sides before it is recycled back into the pool. Both the reflecting pool and fountain reflect the beauty and artistry of the Memorial back at us.
The ceremonial flame at the core of the Memorial honors the sacrifices of the nation's soldiers. Rising above the star shaped fountain, the flame engages the senses of the viewer in heat and light. Standing the test of time and wind, dark and light, the ceremonial flame is an eternal tribute to the strength and sacrifice of veterans. Breaking through the surface of the dark fountain, the flame reminds us of how light rises from dark.
White granite from Bethel, Vermont frames the northwest and southeast perimeter of the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial. The words of Presidents George Washington and Dwight D. Eisenhower, both great military leaders and veterans, cut to the heart of the Memorial's mission. The inscriptions were carved by Nicholas Benson of The John Steven's Shop in Newport, R.I., in business continually since 1705. The John Stevens Shop work can be found elsewhere on the National Mall at the World War II Memorial, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.
A memorial grove of 69 ginkgo and 23 cypress trees form the backdrop to the memorial and signify hope and growth. The ginkgo trees will turn a beautiful shade of gold around Veteran's Day each year and will eventually grow to form an enveloping canopy around the Memorial and its visitors. The urban grove makes up over two-thirds of the 2.4-acre triangular site. Other landscaping features include clipped evergreen hedges that parallel the laminated glass panels, and fragrant shrubs.
Sculptor Larry Kirkland and his team crafted four large bronze silhouette sculptures to stand as a meaningful tribute to our country's servicemen. The four sculptures compare and contrast the ideals and realities of the journey taken by all disabled veterans. Standing alongside the glass panels, which are embedded with images and text, the silhouettes help interpret the challenges and feelings of the disabled veteran: call of duty and pride in service; trauma of injury; healing; and renewal of purpose.
About the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial
Congress approved the Memorial and President Bill Clinton signed the federal legislation into law in October 2000. The law authorized the Disabled Veterans' Life Memorial Foundation to establish a Memorial dedicated to both living and deceased disabled veterans, and to raise all of the funds necessary for construction, maintenance and preservation. Following an invitation design competition in 2003, the Foundation selected Michael Vergason Landscape Architects, Ltd., of Alexandria, Virginia to design the Memorial. The graphics, text and bronze components of the Memorial were created by artist Larry Kirkland in collaboration with Cloud Gehshan Associates. Washington, D.C.-based architectural firm Shalom Baranes Associates was the project architect.