Vietnam Veterans Memorial Visitor Center Enforcement Act

Date: March 28, 2006
Location: Washington, DC
Issues: Veterans



Mr. PEARCE. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

H.R. 4882, introduced by Resources Committee Chairman RICHARD POMBO, along with Ranking Member NICK RAHALL, Congresswoman DONNA CHRISTENSEN and myself, would locate the congressionally approved underground visitors center for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on land adjacent to the Lincoln Memorial.

Chairman Pombo felt compelled to take this unusual action in direct response to what he and I and others believe is the unreasonable bureaucracy choreographed by the National Capital Planning Commission.

In November of 2003, the President signed the bill into law authorizing the creation of the visitors center. For 3 1/2 years, this project has been under way with the National Park Service and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund having promptly met all requests for environmental and related information on the siting of the center. Yet, the commission demands more.

Last November, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund and the National Park Service gave the commission an extensive traffic analysis and met other information requests for a December 1 meeting at which the commission was expected to approve the site. However, without any notice to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, the commission removed the visitors center from the meeting agenda and requested an extensive and unprecedented environmental analysis.

There is no need for an additional analysis. In compliance with the Commemorative Works Act, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund commissioned a site selection study environmental analysis in June 2005 that recommended the most appropriate site, which is cited in H.R. 4882, as amended. Site A, as it is known, would not interfere or encroach on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial or other memorials and protects the open space and visual sight lines of the National Mall as required by the authorizing legislation.

As a Vietnam veteran, I believe the visitors center is a long overdue complement to the most visited memorial in Washington, DC. While ``the Wall,'' as it has become known, certainly provides a visitor with an intense and solemn experience, it lacks personal context. Our brave soldier, sailors, and airmen desperately need something more, an experience that can help them heal while bringing closure. Their objectives were honorable and their sacrifice was exemplary. Yet their heroism remains unnoticed by younger generations.

As today's participants in the military, young men and women, fight the war on terror, there is no better way to reassure them that America will honor their sacrifice, no matter what the Nation feels. The greatest thing that we can do to reassure them is to honor our Vietnam veterans.

Mr. Speaker, I urge adoption of the bill, as amended.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. PEARCE. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I thank the gentleman for his comments and would note that in this past week I was able to tour a brand-new school in my district, the 2nd District of New Mexico, that is named after the Bataan March.

The Bataan Death March occurred because the Nation forgot a small increment, a small group of soldiers, most of them in the New Mexico National Guard. Those people were taken captive, and now I find young school members, school kids today understanding the sacrifices that were made in that Bataan March back in World War II.

I was in Vietnam when the Nation turned its back on the young soldiers of the Vietnam Era. I was there as we were spit on and cursed as we came back. Right now, most Vietnam veterans look for only one greeting, that is, welcome home. Even today, those words are enough to satisfy the Vietnam veteran to whom a nation turned its back.

For the National Capital Planning Commission to turn its back on our veterans from Vietnam one more time is beyond belief. I urge passage of the bill.