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Little Rock native instrumental in development of Gulf War memorial

National Desert Storm War Memorial Association
A rendering shows the future National Desert Storm and Desert Shield War Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Veterans of the 1991 conflict known as the Gulf War will be honored at a new memorial in the nation’s capital.

Officials on Thursday will break ground on the National Desert Storm and Desert Shield War Memorial, which will be located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. It will honor the roughly 700,000 American servicemembers deployed to Iraq and Kuwait.

Little Rock native Jeff Kurczek joined other veterans of the conflict in leading the charge to build the new memorial, which he says is necessary to honor the hundreds of American servicemembers killed in the battles.

“Good can come when diplomacy works between nations, and they get together to defeat a common enemy, so that would be one point. Another, of course, is the sacrifice that people have made, our military, and just to remember that that was a point in history that we feel was very important and needs to be remembered,” Kurczek said.

The Gulf War, which was led by the U.S. after the Iraqi invasion and annexation of Kuwait, saw nearly 300 deaths of American servicemembers and nearly 500 wounded in action. Kurczek says the design of the memorial is inspired by the “Left Hook” strategy in which coalition forces blocked a potential retreat from Kuwait by Iraqi troops.

Kurczek, who serves as chief financial officer of the National Desert Storm War Memorial Association, says the goal is to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in a conflict that can sometimes be overshadowed.

“There were sacrifices all around, and this was a very important conflict especially in terms of the U.S. coalition that had close to 40 countries that came together,” he said. “There were over 700,000 U.S. troops in theater, and this was a great example of what can happen when countries come together and work together for a common cause.”

The site, which is expected to open by Veterans Day 2024, will be located between the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. A groundbreaking ceremony will stream live online Thursday beginning at 9 a.m. Central Standard Time.

Daniel Breen is a Little Rock-based reporter, anchor and producer for KUAR.