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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August,16 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 33
To honor those who served - A call for a national LGBT veterans' memorial
Section One
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To honor those who served - A call for a national LGBT veterans' memorial

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

According to Nancy A. Russell, chair of the National LGBT Veterans Memorial project (NLGBTVM), it is their mission to create a monument and memorial at the Historic Congressional Cemetery (HCC) in Washington, D.C., to honor LGBT veterans who have served, are serving, or will serve in our nation's military services.

Russell, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, says it would be a place of honor and a testament to LGBT service throughout U.S. history and a place where loved ones and the public may go to learn and reflect on the role our service members play in defense of our country and our values.

The public's help is needed for the memorial to become a reality.

The idea of creating a national memorial honoring LGBT veterans was conceived 14 years ago by Patrick Crowley, then a member of the Board of Directors of HCC, and Nancy Russell, then national president of Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Veterans of America (GLBVA). In a letter dated May 20, 2001, the HCC Board of Directors notified NLGBTVM of its approval to proceed with negotiations.

ISSUES CONFRONTED
During the ensuing years between that approval and the contract between the boards of HCC and NLGBTVM, the Congressional Cemetery was plagued by a number of issues that needed to be resolved before the project could proceed.

The issues included:

o Completion of the Cemetery Master Landscape Plan,

o Resolution of flooding issues in the lower part of the Cemetery, and

o Obtaining ownership of a road in the Cemetery legally owned by the D.C. Jail.

According to Russell, 'Complicating the resolution of these issues was the lack of funding for the Cemetery to hire a full-time executive director to oversee these issues. All the workers were either part time or volunteer.'

In September 2012 the board of HCC advised the board of NLGBTVM that the issues had finally been resolved and that the project to build the memorial could proceed. Final negotiations with the Congressional Cemetery resulted in the signing of a contract in May 2012 between the Congressional Cemetery and NLGBTVM boards to proceed with this endeavor.

WHAT IS BEING PLANNED
As currently conceived, the Memorial Project will consist of four components:

o Monument: The NLGBTVM will be designed to provide a place of honor and reflection for LGBT veterans and their families. Adequate room will allow for wreath laying and various other ceremonies honoring the service of LGBT Veterans, particularly ceremonies during national holidays such as Veterans Day, Memorial Day, and Independence Day. The monument design will not be completed until later this year.

o Internment of Cremains: The design will provide for internment of cremated ashes of eligible veterans, with a stone engraved with their name, rank, and service.

o Memorialization: For those not wishing to have all or part of their ashes buried at the memorial, there is the option of acquiring a brick or paver in one of three sizes, which will be engraved appropriately.

o Service Member's Stories: as a part of our effort to educate the public and to preserve the history of LGBT service, we are planning to have a database located at the administrative offices of the cemetery where the information we are able to obtain on those interred or memorialized there will be available for the public, family, friends, and for future research.

WHAT IT WILL COST
The board of NLGBTVM has contracted with Historic Congressional Cemetery for a minimum of 10 burial plots on which to build the memorial. Each plot costs $2,500. That is an area of 240 square feet (15' x 16') at a total cost of $25,000. An additional five sites at $4,000 each for an additional 120 square feet have been reserved for possible future expansion.

The total cost of the monument is not yet known. That will depend on the design selected in October, when submissions will be judged and a winner selected. The cost of the monument could exceed $100,000 and there will be additional costs for landscaping the memorial garden.

NLGBTVM has recently announced a contest for design of the Monument. Anyone wishing to participate in the contest may do so by going to the NLGBTVM website (www.nlgbtvm.org) for instructions.

NLGBTVM also welcomes your constructive comments and ideas. Email Russell at chair@nlgbtvm.org.

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