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Archive for Friday, May 21, 2004

Obstacles

May 21, 2004

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The new Washington war memorial does precisely what Sen. Dole and others had hoped it would.

When visionaries such as Kansan Bob Dole began their efforts to establish a World War II Memorial in Washington, money, of course, was the first concern. How many millions would it take, and how could such enormous sums be raised?

That job was not easy but it was done.

Then there was the site for the memorial. Controversy quickly surfaced over the proposed location on the Washington Mall. Critics claimed the planned installation would besmirch the view of such landmarks as the glorious Lincoln Memorial and the towering Washington Monument.

Such criticism rings quite hollow now that the memorial is completed and soon will be dedicated. If anything, the World War II monument enhances the views of the Lincoln and Washington sites.

The Washington tower is at one end of the mall and the Lincoln site is at the other. The understated World War II piece lies appealingly between at a low level that leaves a clear view of the other two inspiring structures.

The highest structures in the new memorial are the double towers symbolizing the Atlantic and Pacific theaters of military operation during the war. Though they rise substantially, both are encased in groves of mature trees that provide the perfect backdrop.

Most who visit the new memorial may be inclined to think the drawings, sketches and even the photographs that have been displayed during construction don't do justice to the development. The granite and bronze blend far more warmly than mere graphics could indicate, the setting is magnificent, and one can view and depart the scene with pride and appreciation. Wartime veterans who manage to get to the memorial will, for the most part, leave feeling good that they are being remembered in such a manner. It is an honor long overdue.

A deeply sobering feature is the assembly of 4,000 gold stars, each representing 1,000 who died in wartime service. Architect Friedrich St. Florian who designed the $175 million memorial explains:

"In 100 years, I hope young Americans when they stand in front of the wall of gold stars, they'll feel a shiver down the spine. I hope they will think, 'When our ideals and values are challenged, we will do the same as these.'"

Former Sen. Dole and the people he worked with can take great satisfaction at what their efforts have achieved. Dole, one of the finest public servants in our history, has always said that the main thing that pleases most veterans is when people simply say: "Thank you for your service." He stressed that repeatedly during the dedication of the Dole Institute of Politics here last July; he continues to make that point regarding the World War II Memorial he did so much to create.

The goal from the start of the memorial campaign was to preserve the scenery of the mall and produce a tasteful and heartwarming final result. No views or venues were sullied. What exists in quiet dignity now says precisely what Sen. Dole had hoped it would:

"Thank you for your service."

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