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D.C. War Memorial Reopened As Locals Fight Nationalization Efforts

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WASHINGTON -- District of Columbia and federal leaders are gathering at the D.C. War Memorial on Thursday morning to reopen the long-neglected and newly renovated local World War I monument. While nobody is opposing the memorial's reopening, there is some stewing controversy about the 80-year-old monument's future. There are proposals to transform D.C.'s local war memorial into a national World War I monument.

As the Los Angeles Times reported this week, Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) has introduced legislation to make the 12-columned local memorial a national one. "We have memorials for Vietnam, World War II, and Korea on the Mall, but we don't have a memorial for all of those who served in World War I," the congressman said.

As DCist lays out, "D.C. voting rights advocates see rededication as an affront to D.C. sovereignty -- something that compromises the integrity of the District's original intention when it paid for and built the memorial."

Civic associations, like the Association of Oldest Inhabitants and the Rhodes Tavern-D.C. Heritage Society, have come out in opposition to plans to nationalize the memorial and have proposed making refashioning the monument to General John Pershing at 15th Street NW and Pennsylvania Avenue into a national World War I memorial.

D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) is defending the local memorial, too: "The District of Columbia War Memorial is dedicated to the more than 26,000 District of Columbia residents who served our country in World War I, including 499 of whom died, while denied all the rights afforded other soldiers-votes in the House and Senate, a democratic local government, and the right to vote for the President of the United States," she said in June, when introducing a resolution on the matter. "The brave men and women of World War I deserve national recognition for their unique contributions to our country, like the veterans of our other wars, but not at the expense of the legacy of other veterans, and certainly not at the expense of District World War I veterans."

The D.C. Council has come out in opposition to the nationalization of the memorial.

Norton, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (D) and D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown (D) are among the local leaders expected to attend the rededication ceremony, which is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m.

Flickr photo by rwiedower

RELATED VIDEO: National Capital Planning Commission Video On The D.C. War Memorial