11/09/2012 04:16 pm ET Updated Jan 09, 2013

This Veterans Day, Honor Our Heroes by Restoring the National Mall


Each year on November 11, Americans across the country celebrate the service of our nation's veterans. Many of these celebrations are held on the National Mall, home to four of America's most enduring tributes to our veterans: the World War II Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the District of Columbia War Memorial.

Our country is deeply proud of our veterans. But while we honor these brave men and women every year on Veterans Day, we need to do more to preserve their legacy. The National Mall -- home to the memorials that honor their service -- is currently in a serious state of disrepair, and it is our shared responsibility to make the restoration and preservation of the National Mall a national priority.

Every year, 25 million visitors from all over the world come to the National Mall to connect with our nation's history and heroes. The National Mall is a place where Americans gather to celebrate and exercise the freedoms our veterans fought to defend, and a reflection of our national pride to the entire world.

But due to this heavy use and years of neglect and inadequate funding, the National Mall is in poor condition. On a visit to these war memorials, you can see trampled grass, broken lighting and crumbling sidewalks. Despite the high number of visitors, it lacks adequate services such as restrooms, water and food.

Many visitors to the National Mall are veterans. And for many of them, their visit is the very first time they've seen the national memorial honoring their service. Honor Flights, a nonprofit organization dedicated to flying living World War II veterans out to Washington, D.C. to see the World War II Memorial, has completed nearly 300 "tours of honor" in the past year alone.

For these veterans, their long-awaited visit to the National Mall is the experience of a lifetime. We believe these memorials should inspire pride in our veterans, not disappointment. Failing to properly care for the National Mall is a dishonor to their service.

The Trust for the National Mall, the official nonprofit partner of the National Park Service dedicated to restoring and improving the National Mall, understands how much the National Mall and its memorials mean to not only veterans, but to all our visitors.

Today and every day, we must work to restore and improve the National Mall so we can honor the veterans represented there. Together, we can ensure that the National Mall remains a place of pride for our country's heroes.