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thedrifter
11-10-03, 07:03 AM
Veterans Await WW II Memorial In D.C.
Associated Press
November 10, 2003


WASHINGTON - Tears and pride mix as Navy veteran Ted Burke talks about the National World War II Memorial and its significance as a reminder of the sacrifices he and millions of others made.

Recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the 83-year-old former torpedoman has made it his life's goal to make it to the Memorial Day weekend dedication on the National Mall.

"I hope and pray to the good Lord I'll be there," said Burke of Rehoboth Beach, Del., a former commander of the American Legion Department of the District of Columbia.

His daughter, Teddy Burke, choked back tears and said if her father cannot make it, "I'll be there for him, and I'll be the proudest person there."

The memorial being built on a 7.4-acre site between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial is the result of years of fund raising and arm-twisting by veterans, including former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole.

Congress passed legislation in 1993 to authorize construction after veterans questioned why there were memorials for Vietnam, Korea and World War I veterans but nothing for those of World War II.

Dole said the memorial will be a wonderful tribute to what he called "the disappearing generation."

"You know, we didn't come back expecting somebody would build a memorial," said Dole, who was gravely wounded in combat. "We went back and a lot of us poor guys got to go back to school with the GI bill, others went back to work."

The Veterans Affairs Department estimates that World War II veterans are dying at a rate of 1,056 a day - more than 385,000 a year. Mindful of this, memorial officials plan to open the site to the public in April, ahead of the dedication May 29.

"We want as many to be able to get in here and see this as we can," said project executive Barry Owenby. Of the 16 million who served during the war, fewer than 4 million are expected to be alive when the memorial is formally opened.

President Bush and all living former presidents are being invited to the ceremony.

Ground was broken in September 2001. More than two years later, most of the granite and bronze is in place. The memorial has two hulking 43-foot arches and 56 smaller granite pillars that form an oval, encircling a sunken plaza and pool.

The pillars represent each state and territory from that era and the District of Columbia. Each is inscribed with the name of a state or territory, and topped off with two bronze wreaths.

The arches - one marked "Atlantic" and the other "Pacific" - symbolize the two theaters of the war. Inside, each has four bronze columns supporting huge American eagles that hold a suspended victory laurel.

Along the ceremonial entrance to the plaza, there will be a series of 24 sculpted bronze panels, each depicting scenes of the war effort, both at home and overseas.

Straight ahead, across the pool, is the "Freedom Wall," which eventually will be covered with 4,000 gold stars to commemorate the more than 400,000 Americans killed in the war. The gold star was the symbol of the death of a family member in the war.

"I certainly don't begrudge memorials to the veterans of other wars, but ours was a big one. And I think it's going to be a very fine tribute to my colleagues," said Eddie Dentz, 79, of Woodbridge, Va. An Army staff sergeant with the 106th Division, he fought in the Battle of the Bulge and was awarded a Bronze Star.

The location and large-scale design of the memorial generated much controversy and court battles.

Opponents considered its design too grandiose and argued it would spoil the Mall's character and interfere with sweeping vistas long enjoyed by visitors. A two-year fight in the courts ended last October when the Supreme Court let stand a lower court's decision in favor of construction.

With Dole and actor Tom Hanks among those making pitches for funds, more than enough money has been raised for the $172 million project. More than $193 million in cash and pledges has come in, according to memorial spokesman Mike Conley, who said the remaining money will be put in a trust fund.

One donation came from Zane Fayos of Fayetteville, N.Y. He was 10 when he gave $195 - everything he had in his bank account.

"These guys pretty much saved a lot of peoples' lives just to give us the future, a chance to live our lives in freedom," said Fayos, now a high school sophomore. "The memorial is really a great way to commemorate that."


Sempers,

Roger
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