The National World War II Memorial is a grateful remembrance — don’t let it fall apart
Earlier this year, the National Park Service discovered two cracks — one along the Atlantic arch and one in the District of Columbia pillar — in the National World War II Memorial in Washington. Only 15 years old, the National World War II Memorial is the first national memorial dedicated to all who served during World War II, and it acknowledges the commitment and achievement of the entire nation.
The memorial honors the 16 million who served in the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II, as well as the more than 400,000 who died and the millions of Americans who supported the war effort here at home.
Today, the memorial is a top destination for millions of annual visitors from all over the country and the world. For many young visitors, their visit to the memorial is a first glimpse at a grateful nation’s remembrance of the sacrifices made by the brave men and women who fought against tyranny.
For World War II veterans such as myself, the memorial is a special destination, a rendezvous point, and a gathering place for reflection, reunions and commemorative programs. It stands as an important symbol of America’s national unity, a timeless reminder of the moral strength and power that flows when free people are united and bonded together in a common and just cause for liberty.
And it is falling apart.
As a World War II veteran who lives in the District of Columbia, I’m fortunate enough to be able to visit the memorial as often as I can, which has included nearly all the four-year World War II 75th anniversary commemorative events. It causes me great distress to see this wonderful treasure fall into disrepair because it cannot be properly maintained. I understand and greatly sympathize with the backlog of maintenance issues with the National Park Service. It is not their fault.
I am optimistic, though. Recently, Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), who led a 17-year effort in Congress to authorize the memorial, introduced another bill (H.R. 4681), along with Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), to authorize the U.S. Treasury to mint coins in commemoration of the memorial. The coin will serve as an important token to the spirit, sacrifice and commitment of the brave Americans who fought to defend our great nation and advance peace and freedom throughout the world.
The proceeds from the sale of the coins will go to the Friends of the National World War II Memorial, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded in 2007, to maintain and repair the memorial and to ensure educational and commemorative programming remains robust and substantial. The Friends of the National World War II Memorial plays an integral and vital role in educating the American public about World War II; preserving and maintaining the National World War II Memorial as a treasure for the American people; and facilitating key commemorative programs at the memorial to pay a fitting tribute to America’s “Greatest Generation.”
This legislation will help ensure the memorial will be properly and appropriately maintained, and that the commemorative and educational programming at the memorial remains robust and substantial.
I urge all members of Congress to support and co-sponsor this legislation. Quite simply, fewer than 500,000 of us World War II veterans remain alive today, and even fewer are able to visit the memorial. I’m one of the lucky ones. Let’s ensure that it stands the test of time and teaches our youth the sacrifices made by the Greatest Generation.
Harry F. Miller is a veteran of World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. He served in the U.S. Army and Air Force.
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