Commission hosts Ceremonial Groundbreaking for WWI Memorial
Pershing Park event thanks supporters & partners in the development of newest national memorial in the nation's capital
By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, United States World War One Centennial Commission
WASHINGTON, DC — The U.S. World War I Centennial Commission hosted a ceremonial groundbreaking for America's World War I Memorial on Thursday, November 9, 2017 at the memorial's site, Pershing Park.
Featured speakers for the event included U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin, U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley, Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, memorial architect Joseph Weishaar, and Centennial Commission Chair Terry Hamby.
Attendees included a host of notable military & veteran leaders, as well as Centennial Commission members, notable members of the historical/cultural community, U.S. and city officials, and major donors.
For the ceremonial groundbreaking, the keynote speakers used presentation-shovels to turn soil that came to the ceremony from the Meuse-Argonne battlefield in France. Meuse-Argonne was the site of the largest military battle in the history of the United States military, and involved over one million service-members. 26,000 Americans were lost in the battle.
Thursday’s event was ceremonial in nature, designed to bring together the Centennial Commission’s partners and supporters. The memorial has been granted unanimous design-concept approval by the regulatory agencies, the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, the U.S. National Park Service, and the National Capital Planning Commission. However, the development process is still underway, and the Centennial Commission continues to work closely with those agencies to develop the final architecture for the site.
The Centennial Commission used the event to announce that they had received leadership gifts from two of America’s leading veteran service organizations, the American Legion, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Each of the organizations made donations in the amount of $300,000, to be used for the creation of the new national-level memorial.
Speaking of the Centennial Commission efforts, Secretary Shulkin said “Our duty as citizens of a free country is to remember our Veterans – to honor them every day. Americans benefit from Veterans’ service, so all have a role in building this monument to memorialize those who served in World War I. We honor them so Americans serving today know that they, too, will be remembered and cared for in the years after.”
Chair Hamby agreed “It has been a tragedy that the millions of veterans of the Great War have not been memorialized in the nation’s capital. Today, this ceremonial groundbreaking service starts the process of erecting a memorial, here in Pershing Park, alongside their leader. With this ceremony, our nation starts the process of keeping faith with our veterans of World War I.”
The event was a flourish of sights and sounds. Participants included a host of U.S. Military Academy Cadets, the Pershing Rifles Group, and the U.S. Army Band's "Pershing's Own" Brass Quintet, and over a dozen World War I living-history reenactors.
As a backdrop in Pershing Park, the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City provided “Fields of Battle, Lands of Peace “, a special traveling exhibit of art photographs taken at the battlefields of France and Belgium, telling the story of America’s Doughboys in the war. The “Fields of Battle, Lands of Peace” exhibit will remain for viewing in Pershing Park until December 8th.