NEWPORT NEWS, Va. - A local non-profit wants to build a new memorial honoring those who fought in Iraq.
Virginia Veterans Memorial, Inc. was founded two years ago and is based in Newport News.
The organization's initial project is focused on raising money for the Virginia Veterans Iraq Memorial at Huntington Park near the Virginia War Museum. The proposal is to build it next to the Virginia Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Chris Garcia, a member of the organization and Iraq War veteran himself, says after troops initially pulled out in 2011, there weren't the same celebrations and parades that veterans of previous U.S. wars received.
He tells News 3, he believes veterans of recent wars should be honored, despite criticism many have of the wars themselves.
"No one was forced to go, these people freely stepped up and wrote a blank check for up to and including their lives for this country and the country needs to step forward and say 'we had it good, we made our livings while you were there. It's now our time to take care of you,'" Garcia said.
Garcia says Virginia Veterans Memorials, Inc. is working closely with the City of Newport News on the project, but has to fundraise the money by itself — $5,000-6,000 by the end of January to complete the design phase and $300,000 to build the monument.
A GoFundMe page has been created to help raise the money and a 7 p.m. meeting on January 3 at American Legion Braxton-Perkins Post 25 on Marshall Ave. aims to build support.
“And we really would love if any and all Iraq and Afghanistan veterans could come. We’re going to present what we’re doing and try to get more and more people involved because we really, really need Iraq and Afghanistan veterans involved in the project," Garcia tells News 3.
At best, Garcia says he hopes to have the memorial dedicated in time for the 20th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War.
From there, the organization hopes to build a memorial at Huntington Park for veterans who fought in Afghanistan and an Armed Forces Pavilion.
According to the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission, in 2018, there were more than 80,000 veterans of post-9/11 wars in Hampton Roads and nearly 80,000 veterans from the Gulf War.