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Ground is broken for long-awaited World War I memorial in Washington, DC

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley speaks at the groundbreaking ceremony for the National World War I Memorial.

By MICHAEL S. DARNELL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 9, 2017

WASHINGTON — After years of false starts, unused plans and fundraising drives, the National World War I Memorial is finally on track.

Dignitaries including Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin helped to break ground on the long-awaited memorial to the “War to End all Wars" Thursday at Pershing Park.

“Here in Washington D.C. we are very fortunate to have access to many of the nation’s memorials, museums and monuments that tell our nation’s history,” Bowser said. “And we know that the World War I memorial will be a vital and long-awaited addition to this story.”

Plans for the recent memorial date back years. In 2013, the World War One Centennial Commission was formed, in part to oversee the design and construction of the memorial.

The site of the eventual monument was hotly debated, with some wanting it to reside on the National Mall, nearer the memorials to the Korean War, World War II and the Vietnam Wall. Those plans were changed and finalized in 2014, where the commission decided on Pershing Park, a small, often-overlooked area dedicated to the famous World War I general, John “Black Jack” Pershing.

In 2015, the commission held an international competition for the design of the eventual monument. A young student architect named Joe Weishaar, then only 25 years old, and sculptor Sabin Howard eventually won that competition.

Weishaar was on hand for the ceremony and spoke to the crowd. He said being a part of the monument that will rest in Pershing Park was the greatest honor of his life.

“It may be long overdue, but today marks another point in the journey of making sure they’re not forgotten,” Weishaar said of the long-dead veterans of World War I.

But memorials like this one aren’t for the dead. They’re for the living, reminders of conflicts that should never be forgotten, said one veteran with familial ties to World War I.

“Young people need to see memorials and ask questions about them, find out what it was that went on in history to create the need for these memorials,” Edward M. Hogan, an Army veteran, said. Hogan’s father served in World War I, and his uncle served with Pershing before that. Hogan himself served in Vietnam and the Korean War.

As a veteran, Hogan said he was proud to see so many younger attendees in the audience at the memorial's ground breaking.

“Our history has to build with our young people and if young people don’t find out about our history it’s never going to be carried on.”

darnell.michael@stripes.com
 

Dignitaries turn the ceremonial first shovelful of dirt doring the groundbreaking ceremony for the National World War I Memorial at Pershing Park in Washington, D.C., Nov. 9, 2017.
JOE GROMELSKI/STARS AND STRIPES

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