This was the group’s first volunteer cleaning effort since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The volunteers were from DAV Chapter 10 out of Arlington-Fairfax in Virginia. A volunteer said taking care of the memorial for the past several years helps tell the story of disabled Veterans.
“We want to make sure it looks good and at the same time, when we’re cleaning it, we get to read everything, too, all over again,” Marine Veteran Shane Liermann said. “They resonate with many of us being disabled Veterans. We want to make sure that everybody else that’s here gets to see that message as clear as possible.”
Leading the volunteers was Park Ranger James Pierce, volunteer coordinator for the National Park Service’s National Mall. In addition to his official role, Pierce also takes the memorial cleaning personal as a disabled Army Veteran. He spent three years in recovery after an IED attack in Afghanistan.
“The American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial is a very special memorial since I’m a wounded Veteran,” Pierce said. “To get other service members to come out and realize the duty, the honor and respect we’re giving back to our nation, even though they’ve already given so much, means everything to me.”
Marine Veteran Shane Liermann, left, and Army Veteran Robert Whaley, volunteers from Disabled American Veterans Chapter 10 out of Arlington-Fairfax in Virginia, clean the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial in Washington, D.C., May 22.
Liermann, the deputy national legislative director at DAV, said the group takes a personal responsibility caring for the memorial.
“It’s our way of making sure as disabled Veterans, we’re taking care of the memorial,” Liermann said.
Liermann added the memorial is a powerful reminder to those who pass by.
“Here lies the cost of war: a memorial dedicated to men and women who’ve sacrificed so much that they’re living examples of that sacrifice,” he said. “It’s just a testament to Veterans living with something for the rest of their lives that most people don’t understand. It’s a reminder we all have scars.”
About the memorial
Dedicated on October 5, 2014, the memorial features glass panels, granite walls, bronze sculptures, a star fountain and a tree grove. The purpose is to shine a light on service members disabled as a result of military service. The memorial is the first national tribute to disabled Veterans. It pays tribute to the hidden and visible disabilities from all conflicts and all branches of service.
The memorial is just west of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington D.C., at 150 Washington Avenue, SW.
DAV’s mission is a single purpose: empowering Veterans to lead high-quality lives with respect and dignity. Learn more at https://www.dav.org/.
Army Veteran Jesse Bendahan cleans a bench at the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial in Washington, D.C.
By Air Force Veteran Adam Stump is a member of VA's Digital Media Engagement team.