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Op-Ed: A visit to the District of Columbia World War I Memorial Special

By Leigh Goessl     Jul 24, 2012 in Travel
Washington - The World War I Monument, one of the lesser known memorials in the District, is nestled near the Korean War Memorial on the National Mall, right across from the Martin Luther King Jr. monument.
Dedicated in 1931, this memorial was built in remembrance of the District of Columbia residents who served and died in World War I.
The WWI Monument is a lesser known memorial on the Mall, and it is not a national monument. For years, many visitors to the U.S. Capital probably never even knew of its existence, as over time it had been concealed by overgrowth of shrubbery.
For years the District of Columbia's WWI Monument was in disrepair. The first time I sought out the memorial was several years ago and had a difficult time finding it, even walking right by it the first time. Had I not been specifically looking for it, I would never have seen it.
When I did circle back and locate the monument, it was disheartening to see the neglect.
The structure was constructed with marble, like many of the other prominent monuments on the Mall, but it was not shining white like the others, as it sat behind shrubs and trees, barely noticeable.
This photo was taken in 2008, likely on a subsequent visit to that first time.
Frank W. Buckles, the last living American WWI Veteran, had noticed the monument's neglect in 2008 and championed the cause of cleaning up the current WWI monument and then getting it rededicated as a national memorial.
Finally, something was done about it, and work commenced in 2010. The National Parks Service website noted the work included cleaning, re-pointing, and preservation to the marble. Additional renovations included replacement of bluestone walkways, restoration of landscape to "original design intent" and improvements to the lighting and draining.
Mr. Buckles passed away in Feb. 2011 at the age of 110, and did not get to see the results of the refurbished monument, the cause he had worked so hard to see happen. However, he would probably be pleased with the vast improvement.
Today, the monument is in far better condition as it stands out far more than it did prior to the renovations. And visitors are far less likely to miss it completely as I almost did several years ago.
The District's monument reopened in Nov. 2011, 80 years after it was erected. Today visitors see a much nicer and appropriate presentation of the monument dedicated to the 26,000 locals who served in World War I, including the 499 soldiers who did not come home.
However, as for Buckles' second wish, it seems it was recently decided the District of Columbia memorial will not be nationalized, however, lawmakers are seeking another way to honor those who served in World War I.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about World War I, WWI, national mall, Washington dc, Monuments
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