Philanthropist unveils plan for disabled-vets memorial Tabloid publisher's widow backed by key officials and a generous budget

November 11, 1998|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

WASHINGTON -- There are many memorials in the nation's capital to those who died in past wars, but none to those who survived but returned home disabled, shattered and often neglected.

A philanthropist from southern Florida with a large budget, some vivid memories and a simple idea wants to change that.

Yesterday, the eve of Veterans Day, Lois Pope and veterans' advocates announced a fund-raising drive for a national memorial for disabled veterans to be built on or near the Mall, home to memorials honoring veterans of the Korean and Vietnam wars.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, there are at least 2.2 million disabled veterans in the United States.

By next Veterans Day, organizers for the memorial hope to be well on the way to working with the National Park Service on a location and choosing a design.

"When I went to see the Vietnam Memorial years ago, I was upset there was nothing similar for those who are living but are disabled," said Pope. "We want to create a sense of awareness for what they have been through."

Pope might have the drive, organizing skills and connections to bring this off. She also has help: Jesse Brown, former secretary of veterans affairs who was wounded in Vietnam, several congressional leaders and the Disabled Veterans of America are pushing the effort.

When the new Congress meets in January, Republican Arizona Sen. John McCain is to introduce a bill to provide federal land for the memorial, which would be funded by private contributions. McCain, once a prison of war in North Vietnam, is joined by two Democratic senators who were wounded and disabled in Vietnam: Bob Kerrey of Nebraska and Max Cleland of Georgia.

"This memorial will clearly signal the nation's gratitude to all whose disabilities serve as a living reminder of the toll war takes on its victims," said McCain.

Pope has tackled several projects. The widow of Generoso Pope, publisher of the National Enquirer, she sold the publication 10 years ago for a reported $412 million and has plowed much of that money into philanthropic ventures.

Pub Date: 11/11/98

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