Memorial Day 2009, WWII Memorial

Memorial Day 2009, WWII Memorial

Fifth Anniversary of the WWII Memorial

By George Kerestes

At today’™s program, Friends of the National World War II Memorial ( with the National Park Service in a special program recognizing the 5th anniversary of the dedication of the Memorial. The program included music by the United States Marine Band, and a bugler and color guard from the Military District of Washington.  The speakers included former Senator Robert Dole, World War II veteran and Co-Chairman of the  Capital Campaign for the World War II Memorial who has greeted thousands of World War II veterans who have visited the Memorial (through the tireless efforts of the Honor Flight Network and its many Guardians and volunteers) , Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, sponsor of the legislation which created the National World War II Memorial, Ambassador F. Haydn Williams, former Chairman of the World War II Memorial Committee of the American Battle Monument Commission, Friedrich St. Florian, the designer of the Memorial, and Edward Small, President of the construction firm which built the Memorial.  The invocation was given by Lt. Col. William El Calbert, U.S. Army (ret) World War II Veteran. 

It was my honor to serve as one of the many volunteers on that wonderful weekend 5 years ago.  That honor continues today as I have the opportunity to meet thousands of World War II Veterans and their families again and again at the Memorial throughout the year.

Although there were few than the 150,000 who attended the 2004 dedication, the History and Legacy of the World War II Generation continues to be told by ceremonies just like this.

The following are some of the highlights from those who played a key role in building a Memorial to “commemorate and celebrate the defining event of the 20th Century, and to honor all those Americans who served on the home front and the battle front and all those who gave their lives in history’™s greatest and costliest war.”

Senator Dole thanked the many people who were responsible for making this Memorial a reality.  He invited everyone to come to the Memorial this Saturday (May 31) and see first-hand what Honor Flight is doing to bring World War II Veterans to their memorial.  He has personally greeted over 60 Honor Flights and if you review the archived photos on this Blog you will come to conclusion that Senator Dole is the most photographed person in Washington – thanks to Stephen Brown.

Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur reviewed the legislative history of the Memorial and how the idea for a World War II Memorial came to be – ”it sprang from an Army veteran, Roger Durbin, who lived in the Toledo area.  Mr. Durbin approached Representative Kaptur in 1987 to ask why with all the monuments and memorials in our nation’s capital, there were none dedicated to World War II.  Seventeen years later, in 2004, the Memorial that Roger Durbin asked about was dedicated and remembered again today.

Rolly Kidder, Executive Director of the Friends of the World War II Memorial, noted that Ambassador F. Haydn Williams proposed to the Commission of Fine Arts that the Rainbow Pool site be studied as the location for the Memorial (WAY TO GO HAYDN).  Rolly also noted that we are standing on sacred ground.  During the 1995
ground breaking ceremony, soil from each of the 14 oversees American World War
II burial grounds operated by the American Battle Monument Commission was
scattered over the Rainbow Pool site. And let us not forget that each of the 4,048 Gold Stars has 100 names and 100 life stories.

Friedrich St. Florian gazed around the Memorial and noted that the original design – ”a vast and open and welcoming plaza is validated. This memorial sets a stage for those who fought the war and those on the home-front who supported the war. In the last five years it has quietly taken its place among the iconic memorials on the Mall.

Edward Small, representing the builders and said:  “œIt was job a lifetime.  It remains at the center of his heart.”  Everyone who worked on this memorial saw their efforts as a way to pay tribute to all the members of the “œGreatest Generation.” He stated that many of the workers placed family mementoes throughout the Memorial.  After the ceremony here shared with me some “œpriceless” insight into their location.

I was able to take a few pictures today and that reminded me that I DID NOT have a camera with me in 2004.

The program concluded with a wreath-laying service to commemorate those who gave their lives for our country in World War II.

WWII Memorial

Photographs from this event are featured in Jewel of the Mall: World War II Memorial book. 

Comments are closed.