A $100,000 gift from the Kuwaiti government to North Carolina for its military contributions in the first Persian Gulf War sat unused for 24 years, until now.
Gov. Pat McCrory on Friday announced that the gift, meant to be seed money for a war memorial, will be used to start a traveling exhibit. The money will be transferred from the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs to the N.C. Museum of History to develop an exhibit that commemorates the war and honors the 17 North Carolinians who died there.
The announcement came on the 25th anniversary of the start of Operation Desert Storm, when a U.S.-led coalition drove Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi army out of Kuwait. More than 75,000 military personnel in the war were stationed in North Carolina, representing one-sixth of all U.S. troops who were deployed there.
McCrory made the announcement at a commemoration of the anniversary at the history museum.
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Plans for some kind of memorial began as long ago as 1991, when Gov. Jim Martin formed a commission to pursue it. The following year, Kuwait’s ambassador to the United States visited Raleigh to express his appreciation and pledged $100,000.
The effort was driven by the family of Christopher Chapman, a 25-year-old Army master sergeant from Mecklenburg County who died in a helicopter crash during a rescue mission in Saudi Arabia in 1991. His nephew, Thomas Chapman, an N.C. State University student, attended Friday’s event and received a proclamation from the governor paying tribute to those who served.
“This means the absolute world to me,” Chapman said.
McCrory also announced that he would ask the legislature for money to improve the state’s veterans cemeteries, which he said have fallen into disrepair.
The governor also presented the proclamation to Patricia Harris, a Gulf War combat veteran who became the state’s first woman and first African-American to serve as commander of the North Carolina American Legion. She has also started a support organization for female veterans.