It's time to honor Washington's World War II vets
by Don C. Brunell
When my dad and uncles went off to fight in World War II, the only thing they wanted was to return home, be with their families, and go back to work.
Their reward for risking their lives was freedom and the knowledge that America and their ancestral homes were safe from Hitler's tyranny. They weren't concerned about memorials, and kept the memories of their fallen comrades alive in their own special ways.
But things have changed since my father returned home in 1945. The World War II vets are now in their 70s and 80s, and to many Americans World War II is now just a chapter in a faded history book.
That is one of the reasons why the 1995 Washington Legislature authorized $50,000 in seed money for a World War II Memorial on the capitol grounds in Olympia.
Today, that memorial is closer to becoming a reality. After reviewing hundreds of designs, the memorial committee selected one by Jim McGranahan of McGranahan Partners, Tacoma.
It features five 14-foot tall wedge-shaped bronze pillars, engraved with the names of the nearly 4,000 Washingtonians who died in World War II. From a distance, the names form silhouettes of soldiers, sailors, airmen, nurses, and civilians.
A walkway leading to the monument is bordered by a simulated wheat field containing 4,000 bronze shafts of wheat--one for each person who died. The shafts sway in the wind and chime when they strike each other. A bronze strip along the walkway lists the major battles and events of World War II.
Plans are to raise the half-million dollars needed to construct the memorial from private sources. It is to be a gift from the people of Washington to the World War II Vets.
While this memorial is long overdue, it shouldn't wait any longer. Funds must be gathered this year so construction can begin next year. And if all goes as planned, dedication will be in 1998.
If you would like more information about the memorial or wish to contribute, please call the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs at 1-800-562-2308.