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Ceremonial shovels at the groundbreaking ceremony for the National World War I Memorial at Pershing Park in Washington, D.C., Nov. 9, 2017.

Ceremonial shovels at 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)

Ceremonial shovels at the groundbreaking ceremony for the National World War I Memorial at Pershing Park in Washington, D.C., Nov. 9, 2017.

Ceremonial shovels at 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)

Army veteran Edward M. Hogan is interviewed after the groundbreaking ceremony for the National World War I Memorial at Pershing Park in Washington, D.C., Nov. 9, 2017.

Army veteran Edward M. Hogan is interviewed after 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)

A flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol awaits presentation to Sandra Sinclair Pershing during the groundbreaking ceremony for the National World War I Memorial at Pershing Park in Washington, D.C., Nov. 9, 2017.

A flag that flew over the U.S. Capitol awaits presentation to Sandra Sinclair Pershing during 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)

Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, speaks at the groundbreaking ceremony for the National World War I Memorial at Pershing Park in Washington, D.C., Nov. 9, 2017.

Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, speaks at 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)

Terry Hamby, right, chairman of the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission, watches as ceremonial checks marking contributions from the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion are displayed during groundbreaking ceremonies for the National World War I Memorial in Washington, D.C.'s Pershing Park, November 9, 2017. With him are American Legion National Commander Denise H. Rohan and VFW Commander in Chief Keith Harman.

Terry Hamby, right, chairman of the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission, watches as ceremonial checks marking contributions from the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion are displayed during groundbreaking ceremonies for the National World War I Memorial in Washington, D.C.'s Pershing Park, November 9, 2017. With him are American Legion National Commander Denise H. Rohan and VFW Commander in Chief Keith Harman. (Joe Gromelski/Stars and Stripes)

A visitor looks at the display of photos of World War I battlefields taken by Michael St. Maur Sheil at the groundbreaking ceremony for the National World War I Memorial at Pershing Park in Washington, D.C., Nov. 9, 2017.

A visitor looks at the display of photos of World War I battlefields taken by Michael St. Maur Sheil at 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)

The U.S. Army Band Brass Quintet plays before the groundbreaking ceremony for the National World War I Memorial at Pershing Park in Washington, D.C., Nov. 9, 2017.

The U.S. Army Band Brass Quintet plays before 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)

Former Sen. John Warner, R-Va., talks with Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley after the groundbreaking ceremony for the National World War I Memorial at Pershing Park in Washington, D.C., Nov. 9, 2017.

Former Sen. John Warner, R-Va., talks with Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley after 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)

VA Secretary David Shulkin, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and lead designer Joseph Weishaar stand for the playing of the national anthem during the groundbreaking ceremony for the National World War I Memorial at Pershing Park in Washington, D.C., Nov. 9, 2017.

VA Secretary David Shulkin, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and lead designer Joseph Weishaar stand for the playing of the national anthem during 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)

Sandra Sinclair Pershing, a family member of Gen. John "Black Jack" Pershing, listens to a speaker along with VA Secretary David Shulkin and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley during the groundbreaking ceremony for the National World War I Memorial at Pershing Park in Washington, D.C., Nov. 9, 2017.

Sandra Sinclair Pershing, a family member of Gen. John "Black Jack" Pershing, listens to a speaker along with VA Secretary David Shulkin and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley during 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)

Joseph Weishaar, the lead designer for the National World War I Memorial, speaks during rhe groundbreaking ceremony at Pershing Park in Washington, D.C., Nov. 9, 2017.

Joseph Weishaar, the lead designer for the National World War I Memorial, speaks during rhe groundbreaking ceremony at Pershing Park in Washington, D.C., Nov. 9, 2017. (Joe Gromelski/Stars and Stripes)

The groundbreaking ceremony for the National World War I Memorial at Pershing Park in Washington, D.C., Nov. 9, 2017.

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)

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.

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)

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley listens to a speaker during the groundbreaking ceremony for the National World War I Memorial at Pershing Park in Washington, D.C., Nov. 9, 2017.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley listens to a speaker during 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)

Veterans of Foreign Wars Commander in Chief Keith Harman and American Legion National Commander Denise H. Rohan listen during the groundbreaking ceremony for the National World War I Memorial at Pershing Park in Washington, D.C., Nov. 9, 2017.

Veterans of Foreign Wars Commander in Chief Keith Harman and American Legion National Commander Denise H. Rohan listen during 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)

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

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