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Op-Ed: Will the U.S. have a national World War I Memorial in Washington?

By Leigh Goessl     Jul 24, 2012 in World
Washington - The World War I Monument is nestled near the Korean War Memorial on the National Mall. This memorial was built in remembrance of the soldiers from the District of Columbia who served and died in World War I.
Washington D.C. has several national monuments in the District. Many of them are well-known and prominently featured, however, the structure dedicated to WWI is a lesser known memorial on the Mall.
For years, many visitors to the U.S. Capital probably never even knew of its existence, despite the fact it was dedicated in 1931. The monument had become concealed by overgrowth of shrubbery and was in disrepair. Just last fall, renovations on the monument were finally completed.
It is, however, not a national WWI Memorial, and currently there is no national memorial in Washington D.C. to those who fought in The Great War.
Will there ever be a national memorial located in Washington?
At this time, the answer to that question appears to be currently under deliberation.
Will a national WWI Monument come to fruition?
Frank Buckles, the last surviving American U.S. WWI Veteran, spent a lot of energy trying to get the District of Columbia WWI monument refurbished after he discovered its condition in 2008. He also hoped to see it rededicated as a national WWI memorial.
He got his first wish, although he never got to see the result. Mr. Buckles passed at the age of 110 in Feb. 2011 before the renovations were completed. However, his hard work did make an impact, as Tex. Rep. Ted Poe (R) and others pursued his second wish.
“The United States has done little, if anything, to recognize that Americans fought in World War I,” Poe had said. “The worst casualty of war is to be forgotten.”
Sen. Poe sponsored the Frank Buckles World War I Memorial Act (H.R. 938).
Current status
Over the weekend, this reporter was downtown for the day and visited the Mall. I stopped to ask a National Parks Service Ranger the status on the current WWI Monument being rededicated as a national one.
The ranger told me that right now it's still under consideration and a national WWI Monument will likely eventually be dedicated, but what's currently under deliberation is the location. The ranger mentioned another WWI memorial in Kansas City, Mo., and noted that either this or the District's monument was proposed to become a national dedicated structure to WWI veterans.
This spurred me to look more into the issue, and I learned there was some controversy. The City officials do not want their monument to be nationalized. The Washington Times reported in Jan. 2012:
"The District of Columbia Memorial is for the people of the District of Columbia and it will never be otherwise,” said Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s nonvoting member of Congress.
After further research, it appears proposals to rededicate the District of Columbia WWI memorial have been abandoned, and a national memorial for WWI has yet to be determined.
Possible solutions?
Currently, due to a prohibition given in a 2003 law, no new monuments can be erected on the strip of federal land on the Mall. According to the Washington Times piece, the newly constructed Martin Luther King Jr. memorial (Oct. 2011), was one of the last authorizations.
However, a new Dwight D. Eisenhower memorial is in the works, and will be located near the Air & Space Museum, according to a NPS Ranger I spoke with on Sunday.
Which leads to the question, why can't decision-makers find another location?
Currently, another proposal being considered is for one to be placed at Pershing Park, which is located about a block from the White House. It was built to honor Gen. John J. Pershing, who served Active Duty in the U.S. Army from 1886 to 1924, having served as a Commanding General during WWI. This might be a workable solution, however, it would not be in close proximity to Korea, Vietnam, WWII and other monuments.
Perhaps the 2003 law [PDF, page 12] could be reconsidered and an exception for a national WWI memorial be placed within one of the several grassy areas still remaining on the mall?
Either way, being the 100th anniversary of World War I is approaching fast, it would be nice for lawmakers to make a decision and properly honor WWI service members. It seems fitting a WWI monument be placed with the others on the National Mall.
**Note: This article has been corrected to state that the Kansas City WWI Memorial is a National one.
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
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