Our nation's wounded warriors need time to heal; and the rest of us need a place in which to reflect upon their sacrifice. Here's David Martin:
It's a thing of beauty designed to honor an ugly fact: the wounds of war. The name of Washington's newest memorial -- American Veterans Disabled for Life -- makes the point.
Project director Barry Owenby gave Martin an advance look at the memorial, which opens next Sunday. It's for disabled veterans of all wars, of whom an estimated three million are alive today.
"It doesn't end with the war; they live with it forever," Owenby said.
"They have a trauma of injury, a healing process, and then their rediscovery of purpose. So that's the story that we're trying to tell here."
It's the story of soldiers like Bob Dole, who came back from his World War II wounds to become a United States Senator and run for President: "It's faith that gives you the strength to endure," Dole wrote, "faith that won't allow you to give up, faith that manifests itself in a ferocious determination to take the next step -- the one that everyone else says is impossible."
They are also stories of disabled veterans you've never heard of.
Joe Bacani was shot through the pelvis by a sniper in Iraq in 2007. His story is on the monument's wall next to Bob Dole's.
Martin said to Bacani, "It doesn't matter if you're famous. It's what you've been through. So you probably earned it as much as Bob Dole did."
"Oh. That's humbling," he replied. "Because I, I've always seen myself as just, like, a normal average Joe."
A picture on the wall shows Bacani in a wheelchair, taken at his Purple Heart ceremony at Walter Reed. "Average Joe" Bacani is now a junior at Columbia University.
"I was never really ambitious," he said.
"Here you are getting an education at one of the top colleges in America!" said Martin.
"Yeah," he laughed. "So after I was wounded, I saw that as, like, a second chance, and I wanted to make the most out of it, especially for my friends' sacrifices. Like, I want to be the best I can be until I die."