The National Desert Storm War Memorial was approved by Congress in December, and it now goes to the National Park Service for the process of selecting a site.
"This was a very important, pivotal point in our history, and there were several hundred folks who didn't come back, and they deserve to be remembered," said Scott Stump, chief executive officer of the National Desert Storm Memorial Association.
Stump, who served as a Marine infantryman in Saudi Arabia during the war, has led the effort to create and build the memorial, which began as an idea that came up while he was on the phone with a fellow Marine and Desert Storm veteran about four years ago, just before the 20th anniversary of the war.
Stump, who has volunteered during Honor Flights, which bring World War II veterans to see their memorial, said he hopes his fellow veterans won't have to wait that long for their memorial.
The World War II memorial in Washington, D.C., opened to the public in 2004, nearly 60 years after the war ended.
"I love everything about that memorial, but if there's one thing I hate, it's that they waited too long," Stump said.
The journey to receiving Congressional approval for the Desert Storm memorial has been long and difficult, he said.
"I almost gave up, but this is too important to quit," he said. "I realize what a tremendous victory it is just getting to this point, but there's also a lot of work left to do. There are a lot of people who didn't come home. We owe it to them."
The memorial also is meant to honor the 30-plus countries who participated in the war alongside the United States, Stump said.
"This memorial isn't just about us, but the 33 countries … that came together and got this done," he said.
The U.S. launched Operation Desert Shield after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in August 1990 and deployed more than 120,000 Iraqi troops into the tiny Gulf state within three days.
U.S. troops took up defensive positions in Saudi Arabia under Operation Desert Shield, and the pressure mounted when Hussein showed no signs of withdrawing.
On Jan. 17, 1991, the five-month buildup became Operation Desert Storm as allied aircraft attacked Iraqi bases and Baghdad government facilities. The six-week aerial campaign climaxed with a massive ground offensive Feb. 24-28, routing the Iraqis from Kuwait in 100 hours before U.S. officials called a halt.
Almost 300 U.S. troops died while serving in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm; 147 of those were battle deaths. Another 467 troops were wounded in action.
Stump said he has heard from some who don't think Operation Desert Storm deserves to be memorialized.
"People have said, 'why would you need a memorial for a 36-hour skirmish?'" he said. "Really? Tell that to the people who were there. Myself, as an infantryman, we were prepared for an absolute bloodbath."
Stump credited the military's leaders at the time – many of them Vietnam War veterans determined not to repeat history – for the success of the war and how quickly it ended.
"I think it's absurd to judge the relevancy of any war based on casualties," he said.
Operation Desert Storm also was a turning point in America's relationship with its military, Stump said.
"That was when America was back," he said. "We knew our military could come through and get the job done. We were able to heal a country from the open wounds of Vietnam and set the stage for the way our troops are treated today."
To design the memorial, the association solicited feedback from hundreds of Desert Storm veterans and their families over a three-month period, Stump said.
Based on that feedback, the memorial's proposed design incorporates two key elements: the sweeping left hook attack into southern Iraq and the 34-country coalition, he said.
The left hook maneuver, which makes the memorial resemble a seashell, "was the maneuver that broke it all open" during the ground war, Stump said.
Now that the Desert Storm memorial has been approved, Stump and his team are turning their attention to fundraising.
The memorial association is behind on its fundraising efforts because it wanted to ensure the memorial would be approved first, Stump said. Most of the money that's been poured into this effort so far has been paid for out-of-pocket by Stump and his team.
"This was a grassroots deal," Stump said.
The National Desert Storm and Desert Shield War Memorial Act authorizes the memorial association to establish "a commemorative work on federal land in the District of Columbia to commemorate and honor the members of the armed forces that served on active duty" during that war, but it prohibits the use of federal money to pay for the memorial.
Stump said the memorial association needs $50,000 to $100,000 to start, as "seed money" to get the ball rolling on the memorial.
Any money raised will "help directly with the design process, site selection" and other expenses, Stump said.
In all, Stump said it could take as much as $30 million to complete the memorial.
The goal is to break ground on the eventual memorial site in early 2016, to coincide with the 25th anniversary of Operation Desert Storm.
In addition to raising money, the memorial association also is working with federal authorities to determine where the memorial will be built. The goal is to have it on or near the D.C.'s National Mall, but it's too early to know where it will end up, Stump said.
One obstacle to building on the National Mall is a moratorium prohibiting new or unapproved memorials, he said.
As he prepares to move forward with the memorial, Stump said he hopes the nation will rally around it.
"I really hope this is something really important for our country," he said. "I hope people haven't forgotten about it or minimized it. This helps tell the story of the sacrifices that were made to make our country what it is today."
To donate, go to the National Desert Storm War Memorial association website, ndswm.org, or mail your donation to NDSWM, P.O. Box 6488, Springdale, AR 72766.