May 25, 1998
World War II Memorial is about education
by Richard L. Kirk, Lt. Col. (Ret.) USA, Chairman Fund Raising Committee for theWashington State World War II Memorial
Remembrance is the important legacy the Washington State World War II Memorial will convey when finished. But more than remembrance, this long overdue and worthwhile tribute is about educating future generations.
The theme is "Children of the State of Washington: The Product of the Sacrifice." It is for our children that men and women served and sacrificed to secure peace and freedom over fifty years ago, and it is for our children that we strive to preserve that peace today. The memorial will not glorify war. Instead, it will teach young people about what took place, where it took place and then try to answer why it took place, so our leaders of tomorrow may work to avoid future wars. It will educate visitors about battles fought and sacrifices made to ensure democracy for the entire world.
The memorial has a bronze band embedded in a raised curb which is inscribed with the most significant events of World War II. The band begins with "Pearl Harbor - December 7, 1941," which brought the U.S. into WWII, moves chronologically throughout the years and ends with "Tokyo Bay - USS Missouri, September 2, 1945", the signing of the Japanese surrender which ended the war. There is an amphitheater which will provide space for gatherings. This area was created so teachers can bring students and hold classes at the memorial about the history of WWII.
The memorial effort has also created an Educational Subcommittee that is working closely with Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Terry Bergeson, Seattle School Superintendent John Stanford, the Washington Education Association and others, to provide school districts the opportunity to learn more about WWII. This subcommittee is working on an initiative for school children to work on projects that focus on WWII and would be displayed in the State Capitol Rotunda during events such as Memorial or Veterans Days. There are also plans to have oral history projects where students would interview relatives or friends who were part of the war.
An estimated $700,000 must be raised to complete the memorial by the dedication date of May 28, 1999. Over $425,000 has been received in contributions from citizens, veterans, businesses and charitable organizations as part of a statewide grassroots campaign.
We must stop and remind ourselves that it has been more than 50 years since the war's end and that as time goes by fewer and fewer of those of us who served in that monumental event will ever see the project become a reality. There are nearly 150,000 WWII veterans living in Washington, but some 400 die every month, so time is clearly of the essence.
Donations can be made to: Washington State World War II Memorial, c/o Department of Veterans Affairs, P.O. Box 41150, Olympia, WA 98504-1150, or by calling 1-800-562-2308.
One WWII veteran summed up the true meaning of the memorial recently: "World War II has a great message for America and the world. In this memorial, we will find a way to state that, and the whole world will hear it."