Urgency of history World War II: Veterans deserve to see a monument constructed on the Mall during their lifetimes.

July 26, 1998

AS EACH year passes, the immediacy of horrifying and savage fighting of World War II gradually fades into that remote collective historical consciousness of previous wars. The men and women who fought in the battles, labored in the defense plants and lived with wartime hardships are growing old and dying. Soon they won't be here to recount the stories of this unprecedented global conflict.

But for the men and women who gathered on the knoll overlooking the Severn River on Thursday to dedicate Maryland's World War II memorial, their wartime experiences and memories are etched in their minds as vividly as the 6,454 names of the state's war dead are carved into the monument's gray granite panels.

They want their children, grandchildren and succeeding generations to remember this was a just war and to honor the sacrifices that hundreds of thousands made to preserve our democracy.

The dedication of Maryland's World War II memorial coincides with the release of filmmaker Steven Spielberg's new work, "Saving Private Ryan," which contains some of the most vivid footage (albeit staged) of combat. For those of us who never experienced the absolute terror of battle and the joy of surviving, this movie is about as close as we may ever come.

This Hollywood production may also help us understand the frustration of veterans such as former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole over the delays in constructing a national World War II memorial. He was on target when he said in his dedication speech that the absence of that monument on the Mall is "unfinished business of World War II."

Settling on a final design and speeding construction of this monument should be a priority. Though the national memorial is intended for future generations, World War II veterans still alive should have the opportunity to walk through a memorial on the Mall in Washington that pays tribute to their heroism and sacrifices.

Pub Date: 7/26/98

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