23 September 2013 by Published in: General musings 6 comments

Susan and I spent much of the day on Saturday visiting some of the newer monuments on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. We had not yet seen the Martin Luther King Memorial, the FDR Memorial, or the World War II Memorial. When the opportunity to do so presented itself, we visited those monuments and were struck by their beauty and dignity.

Washington, D. C. is, in many ways, a giant memorial. Most of the prominent Union heroes of the Civil War are honored with prominent monuments in traffic roundabouts, with none more prominently honored than U.S. Grant. In many ways, the whole city is a memorial to the Union veterans of the war.

Stereogram of Statue at the Vietnam War Memorial, Washington, DCThe first large memorial to be dedicated was the Vietnam War Memorial, which has taken on an iconic status. Although its design was initially excoriated, it remains a moving and incredibly respectful memorial to the American soldiers who sacrificed so much in the far-away jungles of Southeast Asia.

Then came the memorial to the forgotten war, the Korean War. This gorgeous memorial depicts cold, wet, tired American soldiers fighting to protect the freedom of the South Korean republic. It is moving and haunting all at the same time. It is an appropriate monument to their sacrifices.korean-war-memorial-1

1294270_10153466379970413_269324027_oThe most recent memorial to be dedicated was the massive monument to the American contribution to the Allied victory in World War II. We visited it on Saturday, and given that my father and his brothers were members of that generation, and I have known many World War II vets, I found it to be an incredibly moving experience. There were dozens of old vets visiting the memorial, brought there by Honor Flights (an incredibly worthy cause that I encourage all of you to support). I thanked many of them for their service and found myself missing my father a great deal.

world-war-I-wwII then realized that, despite the fact that 2,000,000 Americans served in World War I, there is national memorial to them. I found that staggering, and it made me terribly sad. There is a small memorial to Washington, DC’s contributions to World War I, but no national memorial. Until recently, this memorial was largely forgotten–it did not appear on maps of the Mall, it was not maintained, and it was in bad shape. Fortunately, it has been restored, but I never even knew it existed before Saturday, when I saw it for the first time (and I lived in Washington, DC for a year in college and spent a lot of time on the Mall).

bucklesxThe last World War I veteran, Frank Buckles, who died in 2011, made the placement of a national memorial to World War I a priority of his. Mr. Buckles testified before Congress in 2009 and lent his name to the effort to place a proper memorial on the Mall. That’s a photo of Mr. Buckles, seated in his wheelchair in front of the Washington, DC World War I Memorial. Legislation was introduced in Congress, but it failed. Given that the Congress is the most incredibly dysfunctional institution in the United States, that sadly comes as no surprise.

Please consider supporting the placement of a national memorial to the 2,000,000 American soldiers who served in World War I on the National Mall Please consider helping to make Frank Buckles’ last wish come true. For more information, click here.

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  1. Terry Brasko
    Mon 23rd Sep 2013 at 7:49 pm

    Amen, Eric! My grandfather, Sgt. Howard Harkins Sr. served with the 2nd Cav in the War to End All Wars.

  2. Richard Kirk MacDonald, Jr.
    Mon 23rd Sep 2013 at 9:24 pm

    Absolutely Eric. Why there isn’t is a travesty. I have been going nuts learning more and more about WWI, studying it in college(again) right now. I still say if our people fought and died in a war to keep us free, why the heck do they not have some kind of memorial? Its LUDICROUS!!

  3. Todd Berkoff
    Mon 23rd Sep 2013 at 10:23 pm

    Some of my favorite CW-related memorials in DC are:

    The George Gordon Meade Memorial

    Winfield Scott Hancock Memorial

    The Old Pension Bureau (now the National Building Museum). This monumental structure was built by Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs in 1887 and the frieze along the exterior of Union soldiers on the march is just beautiful. The building is monument to all Union veterans.

    Another favorite spot is Congressional Cemetery, which was THE place for military and political figures of the early to mid 19th century to be buried. This was before Arlington National Cemetery was established. I visit once a year and pay my respects to CW notables Andrew Humphreys, William Emory, Alfred Pleasonton, and Mathew Brady and War of 1812 heroes like Jacob Brown and Alexander Macomb. Lincoln conspirator David Herold is buried in an unmarked plot in the Herold family plot.

    Todd Berkoff

  4. Tue 24th Sep 2013 at 3:36 pm

    Thank-you for the great article. As the President of the WWI Memorial Foundation and representative for Frank Buckles I thought I would bring you up to speed. Some of the references below are in response to the facebook comments on your page so they may stray slightly from the WWI Memorial topic.

    I have read the thread of comments and here is where we are at: The National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission 1) completely and in an unprofessional way downed and trampled on the professional presentation of the organization trying to build the Adams Family Memorial calling them something to the extent of: “you are like children coming back to us again and wasting out time.” Even though they are required by law to get their approval. 2)I testified before the commission following the Adams Family Organization. This was the 4th time our organization testified for the need for a memorial on the National Mall to WWI. And for the first time in history several members made a motion to create a site selection for an adequate WWI Memorial.

    This was immediately tabled and replaced by the NPS- Peter May and the American Battle and Monuments Commission who literally moved to put a sign up at the duck pond of Pershing Park and name it the National WWI Memorial without public input.

    We currently have HR 222 on the books and are assessing another bill for introduction. HR 6364 was rejected on New years Eve when Senator Toomey (r) Pennsylvania objected to a memorial to the WWI Veterans. In turn they stripped the bill of the name “Frank Buckles Memorial Bill” and created a commission for Kansas City which passed by voice vote at about 10pm on New Years Eve.

    Europe has allocated more than a billion dollars to commemorate the anniversary replacing all gravestones, repairing all monuments and creating massive celebrations. America has an unfunded Centennial commission.

    We are currently completing the film Pershing’s Last Patriot the Frank Buckles story that gets into more details about this.

    We need help. We need help financially and by people with connections to move the government in this matter or it will most likely continually be kicked down the road until we go away. We have no plans to do so as we intend to honor our heroes.

    David DeJonge
    President, WWI Memorial Foundation

  5. Mary Goemaat
    Tue 24th Sep 2013 at 6:01 pm

    Excellent article on our nations oversight of these honorable men who served in WW1 Eric. Thanks for helping spread the word- most are not aware their service isn’t recognized on the national mall. Now that I and many others are learning of this through the work of the WW1 Memorial Foundation and seeing the stirring film “Pershing’s Last Patriot”- I support the WW1 Foundation to help make sure this story is heard! Please donate any amount to help to get this film finished and seen across America— No man or woman who has ever served his country should ever be forgotten! Let your representatives know you are also watching their votes on this matter too— I was very disappointed in the party I most identify with when I saw the actions they have taken.

  6. Aaron Buckles
    Tue 24th Sep 2013 at 8:52 pm

    David’s comments pretty much say it all. The USA does not have a National WWI Memorial on the mall for lack of effort. Many of the same politics who seem to have forgotten Frank W Buckles and removed his name from the bill were the same ones who were so pleased to have their photo taken with him earlier. It is hard to count on Congress to do anything right, but we can only hope and pray some with common sense will see the light here and get this done. Perhaps David’s film PERSHING’S LAST PATRIOT will be the catalyst.

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