By MALIA RULON, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) - An Ohio lawmaker told a congressional panel Thursday that a memorial is long overdue to honor U.S. soldiers killed during military service not part of a war, including those who died in the Sept. 11 attacks on the Pentagon.
Rep. Steve LaTourette, a Republican, has pushed the idea since 1995. He hopes his bill will find renewed interest with the upcoming one-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks and the release of the movie "Black Hawk Down," which dramatizes a botched 1993 mission in Somalia that led to the deaths of 18 Americans.
"Our nation has been reeling since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11th, and here in Washington, we are especially mindful of the loss of life at the Pentagon," LaTourette said. "Their sacrifice doesn't fall into one tidy category, but it is just as worthy as those who died fighting in our greatest wars."
The idea for a memorial came from a group of students in LaTourette's northeast Ohio district who were moved by images of American servicemen killed in Somalia during a U.S.-led United Nations mission from late 1992 to early 1995.
The memorial would pay tribute also to soldiers killed during peacekeeping, humanitarian and other non-wartime missions, including training accidents.
"All are undeclared wars and all of the casualties in those cases will have no memorial," LaTourette said. "Let's get this thing done."
The memorial would be a 40-foot pyramid of red granite. Water would flow down the sides of the Pyramid of Remembrance, which would be engraved with the insignias of the four branches of the military.
LaTourette and members of the Ohio-based Pyramid of Remembrance Foundation told a House subcommittee on national parks, recreation and public lands on Thursday that they're ready to begin raising money to build the memorial.
Its cost, which would be paid by the foundation, had not been determined. The memorial would be built on Department of Defense land in the Washington, D.C., area, but a location had not been chosen.
Tracey Ash, a trustee with the memorial's foundation, said support for the memorial has expanded beyond the Painesville, Ohio, classroom where it began.
"It is now becoming a national undertaking," she said. "We are confident as word of this project spreads, additional support, expertise and infrastructure will be secured to raise the funds to construct this memorial."
The memorial, which won House approval in 1999, has garnered support from former President George Bush, former Defense Secretary William S. Cohen and Gen. Henry Sheldon, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.