With no Iraq-Afghan memorial, Vietnam vets to honor 7,000 dead in first-ever roll call

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Years away from even being allowed to have a war memorial, the dead from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will be honored by their fellow Vietnam veterans Memorial Day weekend at The Wall, where the first-ever reading of the names of all the post-9/11 heroes will take place.

“This is the first that we know of -- certainly the first on the Mall,” said The Wall's founder Jan Scruggs of the reading of the names of the nearly 7,000 dead. “The nation's political leadership has agreed that the time is now to honor the fallen and those returning from” the nation's two latest wars, added Scruggs, founder and President Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.

The reading will take place May 24 and is expected to attract top administration officials, likely including Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and recent Afghan war boss, retired Gen. David Petraeus.

"Those who have served in the wake of 9/11 — and their families — have done so selflessly and admirably. They have, in many cases, sacrificed greatly. They have earned description as 'America's New Greatest Generation.' And it is fitting and good that we will honor the fallen of that generation by the Reading of the Names,” said Petraeus.

The fallen will also be honored in the Vietnam Veterans Memorial’s new Education Center once it’s built.

Other's who support the reading of the names include House Speaker John Boehner, former President Jimmy Carter, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the American Gold Star Mothers, the American Legion, Disabled American Veterans and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The reading is being done in cooperation with the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

According to federal rules, veterans of wars must wait at least 10 years before a memorial to their service can be built. Several fundraising groups have just begun to form for an Iraq-Afghanistan war memorial.

Scruggs, who fought critics of the Vietnam War and the black granite, mostly underground Vietnam memorial, predicted that the new veterans will get their memorial eventually.

“One day on the Mall, yes, around 2030,” he told Secrets. “Until then, the display of the Photos of the Fallen in the Center will serve an important societal purpose.”

The reading of the post-9/11 fallen is being sponsored by a $50,000 donations from Billy Joe “Red” McCombs, founder of the Red McCombs Automotive Group in San Antonio, Texas.

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.