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Arkansas Democrat Gazette 1 B memorial rgb t800The new National World War I Memorial in Washington, heralded in a ceremony Friday, honors the more than 4 million veterans of what is known as America’s Great War. Arkansan Joseph Weishaar designed the memorial. More photos at arkansasonline.com/417wwi/. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Frank E. Lockwood) 

WWI monument opens in capital; Arkansan’s design chosen for new D.C. war memorial 

By Frank E. Lockwood
via the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newspaper (AR) web site

WASHINGTON -- More than a century after their guns fell silent, U.S. soldiers of the Great War finally have a monument of their own in the heart of the capital city.

The National World War I Memorial, built at a cost of roughly $50 million, opened to the public Friday.

Fayetteville native Joseph Weishaar, the project's designer, had a front-row seat for the flag-raising ceremony, which featured a color guard, a wreath laying, a live performance by the U.S. Army Band and a high-decibel fly-over by two F-22 Raptors.

"This is one of the most incredible experiences in my life. It was an incredible moment for America. And to be in the middle of it? Words can't describe that," Weishaar said.

Due to covid-19 restrictions, Friday's ceremony was largely virtual, with attendance limited to roughly 50 guests. Spaced 6 feet apart, the masked dignitaries watched prerecorded remarks by President Joe Biden, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and others.

More than 4 million Americans served in uniform during the conflict, enabling England, France and their allies to defeat the nations aligned with Germany and Austria-Hungary.

The toll for the United States was high: 116,516 Americans lost their lives while serving. Thousands of them are buried overseas.

The conflict touched "almost every American family at the time," Biden said.

After the Armistice, many communities erected monuments to their own fallen; the District of Columbia did as well. Kansas City, Mo., had a bigger vision, building what it called a Liberty Tower, 217 feet tall, "in commemoration of the service and sacrifice of American soldiers, sailors, and citizens in the Great War."

Similar efforts failed to materialize in Washington. 

Instead, memorials were built for those who served in Vietnam, Korea and World War II.

"For too long, that nationwide service has not been fully commemorated here, in the nation's capital," Biden said. "This memorial finally will offer a chance for people to visit and to reflect and to remember."

Haaland, whose father is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, authorized the flag to be raised Friday for the first time at the WWI memorial and promised that the National Park Service would be there "every day of every year watching over this memorial."

"As the daughter of a combat veteran, it's not lost on me that the veterans of World War I never lived to see a national memorial to their service and sacrifice here in our nation's capital, a place where their families could share their stories and heal their grief. Today, we right that wrong. Today we remember them," she said.

The last World War I veteran, Frank Buckles, died in 2011; he was 110 years old. Two years before his passing, he testified on Capitol Hill, encouraging lawmakers to build a memorial.

Congress eventually agreed, passing legislation in 2014 to do just that.

Read the entire article on the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette web site.

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