WASHINGTON -- District of Columbia Mayor Vincent Gray and local veterans joined a chorus of voices against the proposed rededication of the city's local World War I memorial as a national monument to those who died in the Great War.
In a Capitol Hill press conference on Monday afternoon, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) spoke in favor of maintaining the 80-year-old memorial built in West Potomac Park to explicitly honor the 499 D.C. residents who died in World War I and not expand the scope of its mission.
While the recently refurbished memorial has been widely welcomed, plans to rename the existing memorial has drawn staunch disapproval from D.C. statehood activists and local politicians alike.
The Frank Buckles War Memorial Act seeks to bring recognition to World War I to the National Mall in a more national way, calling it the "District of Columbia and National World War I Memorial." (Legislation passed in 2003 effectively prohibits new construction in the area, leaving little course for a separate memorial.) Many civic activists, however, find it disheartening that a memorial paid for by D.C. residents to honor residents who died without full and equal voting rights would become a nationalized memorial.
According to Norton, via a press release:
"A national memorial dedicated to all Americans who served in World War I should be located in the nation's capital, and I would be happy to join any congressional effort for a World War I memorial. However, it would be wrong to commandeer the District of Columbia’s memorial, paid for with the blood and treasure of D.C. residents."
Gray joined Norton and DC Vote executive director Ilir Zherka for the press conference. Norton has stressed that she is not against a national World War I memorial in the nation's capital, just the repurposing of the existing local monument.
Some activists have suggested Pershing Park as a logical site for such a national memorial.
Flickr photo by rwiedower