BLAIRSVILLE, Pa. — More than two decades after Operation Desert Storm's conclusion, the United States still lacks a national memorial honoring veterans and casualties of the first Gulf War.
Now, the House Committee on Natural Resources is reviewing the National Desert Storm and Desert Shield War Memorial Act, reintroduced Feb. 5 by Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., legislative liaison for the National Desert Storm Memorial Association's board of directors.
The 14th Quartermaster Detachment, based in the Hempfield village of Carbon, suffered the single greatest number of casualties of any allied unit during Operation Desert Storm.
The U.S. Army Reserve water purification unit was mobilized for service Jan. 15, 1991 and arrived in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, Feb. 19.
At 8:40 local time on Feb. 25 — six days after their arrival and three days before a cease-fire was declared — a Scud missile strike on the unit's temporary barracks killed 28 and wounded 99. Thirteen soldiers from the 14th Quartermaster died in the attack and 43 were injured.
On the first anniversary of the attack, a memorial to the members of the 14th Quartermaster killed in Saudi Arabia was dedicated at the Army Reserve Center in Hempfield.
“It would be an incredible honor to those soldiers and very comforting to the families to know that they aren't forgotten,” retired 14th Quartermaster unit administrator and family readiness coordinator Dorothy Benyako Carbisiero said.
“I think since we have (a memorial) in our local area we don't think about (the lack of a national memorial) as much because we can basically take a few steps and we're right there.”
The bill stipulates no federal funds be spent on the memorial. Financial backing for the memorial will fall on the National Desert Storm Memorial Association.
The bill has 33 co-sponsors from 19 states. On April 9, Scott Perry, R-Dillsburg, became the first representative from Pennsylvania to sign on as a co-sponsor for the bill.
“I was really hoping that we would have pretty much everybody in Pennsylvania on board in terms of representatives,” the association's President Scott Stump said.
The group is hoping to find a sponsor to introduce companion legislation in the Senate, Stump said.
“I'm going to be a co-sponsor,” Congressman Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, said Monday. “Because a lot of Pennsylvanians served and the 14th Quartermaster Unit from my district was the one that suffered the most casualties of any unit, but also because it was a significant military engagement in our country and we should have a memorial to recognize those who served and those who died in action.”
Murphy, along with former District 12 representative Mark Critz, introduced House Resolution 96 in 2011 to mark the 20th anniversary of the Scud missile attack on the 14th Quartermaster unit. Murphy presented a commemorative draft of the resolution at the 20th anniversary ceremony at the Hempfield Army Reserve Center on Feb. 25, 2011.
A moratorium on building on the National Mall has the proposed Desert Storm memorial's final location in question, but Stump said the design firm donating its services to the cause, CSO Architects of Indianapolis, should have renderings ready to show the public before Memorial Day.
More information about the National Desert Storm Memorial Association and ways to support its efforts is available at www.nationaldesertstormwarmemorial.org.