Keep DC’s War Memorial a Local Monument

The World War I Memorial Foundation is a group whose aim is to obtain a national memorial to those who served on that war, on the National Mall in Washington, DC. They aim to do this by raising funds to rededicate the District’s War Memorial.

Let’s talk about the District’s World War One dead.

They died in the service of a country for which they had no vote, and they were honored not by their country but by their city – the District of Columbia’s monument to the city’s fallen of the Great War should remain a city memorial, and all efforts to rededicate it as a national memorial should be rejected. The men who sacrificed for this country’s service in WWI deserve their own national memorial, usurping another for that purpose …

… man, it’s a lot of things. It’s lazy, for one. It’s cheap, for another. “Wah, wah, we can’t afford to spend millions on a national monument.” Well, fine. Don’t. But don’t usurp the District’s monument if, ninety years after World War One ended, this nation’s finally ready to honor those who served.

Those folks who served gave up years of their lives in service to the United States of America. Many of them gave up their lives.

Maybe monuments serve no purpose whatsoever. Maybe all they are is a form of national brainwashing. Sometimes I think about Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and I think about the Lincoln Memorial, and I wonder, does that physical marble structure shape the world as much as those words did? Or those actions on that battlefield? Maybe monuments don’t matter. Or maybe they do, except for whatever reason, the U.S. didn’t really want a WWI memorial in DC. I don’t know.

What I do know is that honoring the service of its citizens who went overseas and fought and died was important enough to the District of Columbia for the city to build its own monument. The country could not muster the will. If a group want to build a national memorial to World War I next to DC’s, or even incorporating it in some way, well, that’s one thing.

But to rename the District of Columbia War Memorial as The National World War One Memorial … man, it’s cheap, and not just in a ching-ching cash register kind of financial way. It robs the District dead of the honor bestowed upon them by a thankful city, and it robs the national dead of folks actually taking the time and consideration to design them their own memorial. “Hey, thanks for going overseas and dying for us. We’re can’t be bothered to design you your own memorial, would you settle for sharing this one?”

By that logic, maybe the Washington Monument can become the George Washington & William J. Clinton Monument, right?

The people who fought and died in World War One deserve a national memorial, and what they paid in blood is a debt that should be paid with a memorial on the National Mall. But the District’s memorial should be left for the District’s dead. They earned that consideration. Yes: they earned the basic consideration that someone might take the time, and pay the money, to have their own monument designed and built for them.

Is it really too much to ask for?

3 thoughts on “Keep DC’s War Memorial a Local Monument

  1. It would make more sense for the Jefferson memorial to be renamed as the Thomas Jefferson and William J. Clinton Memorial.

    At least they share a name in common.

  2. I agree, I actually wrote about this on my blog. I like the memorial that’s there for local WWI. There should be a national WWI memorial. And not another concrete behemoth like the WWII memorial.

  3. I mentioned the lack of a national memorial awhile back on my blog, as well. The closest thing we have at this point is the museum in Kansas City, MO.

    I get your irritation at the re-purposing of an existing memorial to finally get it done, but I’m OK with it so long as the core memorial remains in place somehow. And, in fact, that appears to be what the WWI Memorial Foundation is trying to achieve. From their website:

    We do not propose to “federalize” or overwhelm the District’s memorial. Before the Vietnam War Memorial was dedicated in 1982, war memorials were local, not national. The DC memorial is an exceptional example of a local memorial, and should be recognized and preserved as such. The classical simplicity of the circular temple, and its location in a quiet, secluded grove, give it a contemplative character that should not be altered. We do not favor any proposal that would detract from or alter the character of the DC memorial site, and any additions should complement and preserve the existing memorial and its landscape.

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