The World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. was a long time in coming. The Vietnam and the Korean War Memorials were built before it and they have been solemn, welcoming places of honor and remembrance — places of healing — for those who fought in those two wars. But those who fought in the most significant and world-wide conflict of the 20th century, World War II, had no place to call their own until relatively recently.
A Race Against the Clock
The numbers of our World War II veterans who are still with us and able to enjoy the new memorial in their honor are shrinking very rapidly. They are in their 80s and 90s now. Their health is not that great, many of them are unable to get around without the aid of others now.
With the completion of the WWII Memorial, there has been an organized effort to get these old warriors to Washington, D.C. to see this beautiful monument dedicated to the service they offered and the sacrifices they made for this country in their youth. One organization that is doing this is called Honor Flights. They arrange flights for these WWII veterans from various parts of the country several times a year. The veterans are accompanied by family members and military escorts. They are put up in hotels and taken as a group to the memorial. On these flights they are able to share the stories of their lives with one another and to remember their friends who did not come home from that war or who have died over the years since. You can imagine that it is a powerful experience for all of them.
I remember how I was overwhelmed with emotions when I visited the Vietnam Memorial 20 years after I had left that country. I can only imagine how important this WW II monument is to these old veteran warriors. It would be a real honor to follow them there, to hear their stories, to see their faces as they enter and tour that monument that is dedicated in their honor, built in stone with its noble architecture and heroic statuary.
For Their Service and Their Sacrifice
These men and women have lived long lives knowing that what they did was important and that what they accomplished alone and together really did save the world from fascist and imperialist tyrannies on both sides of the globe. They knew that the nation appreciated them for their service and sacrifice, but there was no permanent monument. Nothing like the Vietnam Memorial Wall with its stark, reverential beauty. Nor anything like the Korean Memorial with its silent platoon, wearied by battle and seemingly trudging through fierce winter weather, their names and the names of the terrible battles carved into stone for all to see and contemplate.
Now our World War II veterans have their memorial. These Honor Flights give all those old warriors who can and who want to go there the opportunity to do so. This has to be a powerful and welcome experience for them.
We thank our World War II veterans for the service they gave to our country in war and for the dedicated hard work, the genius, the inventiveness they gave to the country through their lives after the war. We understand why they can be called our “Greatest Generation.” God bless all of them. We are thankful that what they did so many decades ago to save the world is now memorialized for all to visit in their honor in our nation’s capital.
Well done good soldiers. Well done good citizens. Thank you all.
Image The World War II Memorial honors the 16 million who served in the armed forces of the U.S., the more than 400,000 who died, and all who supported the war effort from home. Symbolic of the defining event of the 20th Century, the memorial is a monument to the spirit, sacrifice, and commitment of the American people. The Second World War is the only 20th Century event commemorated on the National Mall’s central axis. (Carol M. Highsmith’s America, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division).