WASHINGTON DC - World War II veterans waited 60 years to see a memorial built tohonor their efforts, and even though it opened to the public sixyears ago, for many, this is their first chance to see it.
The memorial stands as a monument to the spirit, sacrifice andcommitment of the American people. It is made up of 56 granitepillars, each 17 feet tall arranged in a semi circle. Each pillarhas a U.S. state or territory engraved on it. Naturally, theWisconsin pillar receives a lot of attention from our veterans fromNortheast Wisconsin.
On opposite sides of the memorial are 43-foot archesrepresenting the Atlantic and Pacific theaters of war. The memorialitself prominently sits between the Washington Monument and theLincoln Memorial on the National Mall.
"I hate to use the word 'awesome' because I hear that so manytimes misused, but I think that's what it is," said Ralph Zehren,World War II Veteran from Green Bay.
The World War II Memorial got its start in Congress in 1987 whenthe idea for a monument was first introduced. By 1993, the WorldWar II Memorial Act was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.Fundraising and design would take years. Ground was finally brokenin 2001 and the memorial was completed and opened to the public in2004.
"I kind of figured they'd get it done but like everything elseit takes quite a while to get through all the red tape and allthat. It's like anything else in Washington," said Doug Frase,World War II Veteran from Wrightstown.
The long wait in giving our World War II veterans their memorialhas taken its toll. Many of the veterans have passed away, withmore being lost as each year goes by.
"There's over 1,000 that pass away everyday so we're all in the80s," said Milt Ruppel, World War II Veteran from Grand Chute.
And 90s. For the millions who do get the chance to visit thememorial each year, it is viewed as a job well done.
"Unbelievable, really, but as I say it belongs more to thosewho lost their lives. I had several buddies, close friends thatdidn't come home," added Herb Clark, World War II Veteran fromOshkosh.
The memorial doesn't list names of those lost in battle like theVietnam Memorial. Instead, its Freedom Wall on the west side of thememorial has 4,048 gold stars on it. Each star represents 100Americans who died in the war.
The total project cost of the World War II Memorial project was$182 million, funded almost entirely through private donations. Thecost for our local World War II veterans to travel to D.C. to seeit: free, thanks to the Old Glory Honor Flight program.
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