Nation honors World War II vets at memorial dedication
World War II veteran Earl Dawson is more than willing to recount factual details about his experience in the war, but when asked about personal experiences, such as how many friends he lost, he sits back in his chair, rubs his chin and gets uncharacteristically quiet.Decades ago, more than 400,000 of the 16 million U.S. men and women who served in World War II were sent home in body bags. This weekend, the nation honored World War II veterans at the World War II Memorial Dedication in Washington, D.C.The World War II Memorial has been open to the public since April and is part of the National Mall in Washington, D.C. In 1996 Bob Dole, the former Kansas senator and presidential candidate, started raising money for the $200 million project.
The memorial has 56 stone pillars to represent U.S. states and territories during World War II. Two arches, one representing the Pacific Ocean and the other representing the Atlantic Ocean, tower over each end of the memorial. Also part of the National Mall are the Korean War memorial and Vietnam War memorial. Both wars were fought after World War II, yet the memorials were built well before funding for the World War II memorial began.The Korean memorial was dedicated in 1995, 38 years after the Korean war; the Vietnam memorial was dedicated in 1982, seven years after the end of the Vietnam War; and the World War II memorial will be dedicated 59 years after the war.”It puzzles me that it took so long to get a World War II memorial,” said Dawson, who lives in Rifle. “It definitely wasn’t the numbers of soldiers killed or the resources available for funding.”The number of U.S. soldiers killed in World War II far exceeds the total number of soldiers killed in both the Korean War and Vietnam. The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and multiple other veterans associations have funding for war tributes such as the World War II memorial.
Bob Mayo, commander of American Legion Post 100 in Garfield County, said the memorial was delayed because as soon as soldiers returned from the war, Americans wanted nothing more than to put the war behind them.”Everyone was just so glad it was over they didn’t do anything about it right away,” said Mayo. “It’s hard to revive something once it’s put on the back burner.” Patriotism, or the lack thereof, has a lot to do with Americans’ failure to recognize World War II vets, Dawson said. During World War II, Americans were very patriotic, and everyone, including those who stayed in the United States, made many sacrifices. By the time the Vietnam occupation started, war was televised. When Americans saw the raw brutality of war, they wanted nothing to do with it, so patriotism rapidly declined, Dawson said. To appease enraged Americans, the Vietnam memorial was quickly built.
The hasty construction of the Vietnam memorial may have stymied the development of a World War II memorial.Every day 1,800 World War II vets die of natural causes, so many vets will never see the memorial, Mayo said.Although Mayo and other members of American Legion Post 100 will not be able to attend the dedication in Washington, they will continue to honor veterans at home by placing flags on vets graves.”No vet is in favor of war,” Mayo said. “But we served because we realize it’s the price we have to pay for freedom.”
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