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WWI memorial needs funding to become reality

By CARLOS BONGIOANNI | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 22, 2015

WASHINGTON — About 350 designs have been submitted for a new national monument to honor those who served in World War I, but the funds to make it happen have yet to be raised.

Tuesday was the last day submissions were accepted for the design competition, which was launched in May. Finalists will be announced Aug. 4 and will be paired with professional architectural firms to develop their concepts.

The goal: Select a winner in January and complete the monument by Nov. 11, 2018, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day.

“Our mission is to provide a voice to these Americans who can no longer speak,” said Robert Delassandro, chairman of the World War I Centennial Commission, on Tuesday at the Capitol. “Our task is to ensure that here in Washington, D.C., there is a national memorial to these great Americans.”

To make that happen, the commission needs money.

Officials estimate the commission will need $20 million to $25 million over the next five years to operate, and $20 million to $25 million to build the monument. So far, only $3 million has been raised. Created as a temporary federal agency to promote WWI’s centennial anniversary, the commission does not receive federal funds.

“I was appalled that there weren’t any resources to get even a modest staff,” said retired Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey, a military advocate who serves as a board member for several national corporations.

Though he is not a board member on the WWI Centennial Commission, McCaffrey offered his support to help promote the cause. He and members of the commission have scheduled 25 meetings this week on Capitol Hill to educate members of Congress on the effort.

“It’s extremely important for the American people to commemorate… the impact that the United States had in ending this disastrous war,” he said Tuesday. More than 2 million Americans served in the war, with 125,000 combat and non-combat deaths.

“On the eve of this centennial, we must not overlook this generation,” Delassandro said.

U.S. Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, who also attended Tuesday’s awareness event at the Capitol, pointed to a poster of Frank Buckles, the last living American veteran of WWI. Buckles – who celebrated his 110th birthday Feb. 1, 2011, and died several weeks later – spent considerable time petitioning lawmakers in Washington to create a memorial for WWI veterans.

“The worst casualty of war,” Poe said, “is to be forgotten.”

bongioanni.carlos@stripes.com
 

Retired Army Col. Rob Dalessandro, the chairman of The World War I Centennial Commission speaks at an awareness event at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday July 21, 2015.
CARLOS BONGIOANNI/STARS AND STRIPES

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