joy magnetism: It's time to say thank you

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Sunday, June 7, 2009

It's time to say thank you

Magnet #471 - World War II Memorial

Theme weekend! I was going to use this World War II Memorial magnet for Memorial Day, but this D-Day weekend works just as well, if not better.

This year marks the 5th anniversary of the dedication of the memorial, built to honor the 16 million who served during WWII, the more than 400,000 who died, plus the millions more here at home who helped in the war effort.

It's one of those things where you wonder why it took almost 60 years before a national memorial was built for the WWII veterans. The truth was that there were dozens of local memorials, but nothing on a national level. Then, the right veteran wrote the right letter to the right member of congress, and the rest is history.

And, it's a fascinating history - American Battle Monuments Commission couldn't build the memorial without the funds to build and maintain it in perpetuity. What'd they do? Raise twice as much money as they needed.

They needed someone to help drive the fundraising, what happened? Tom Hanks mentioned the memorial during an awards ceremony and money started flooding in, and he became the national spokesperson, with a couple of commercials telling everyone that it was time to say thank you.

The design itself is as fascinating a story as its history - again one of those stone memorials that say so much. The design of it is quite intricate, from the two pavilions - one for the Atlantic and the Pacific, to the pillars for each state, to the incorporation of the existing rainbow pool, and the Freedom Wall, a field of 4,000 gold stars, representing the 400,000 that were killed. There's also the bronze eagles and wheat, and inscriptions, and bas reliefs, and I could go on and on. Luckily, someone recorded a tour! Whoa.

Dedication weekend 2004 was amazing - it ended up being a four-day Tribute to a Generation, with concerts and ceremonies around town, and presentations and exhibits on the Mall, all culminating in the dedication of the memorial. It's so funny, though I worked on the advertising team for the memorial, I didn't go down to help out with the dedication team.

Instead, my sister and I volunteered for the Smithsonian's reunion weekend, which was even more fabulous than I could ever have thought.

It was the largest gathering of the World War II generation before or since. One particular tent we worked in was the Reunion Hall - it's where all the vets could come in and hang out, sharing stories with each other and with the volunteers. But best of all, they could post notes for men/women in their battalions and fighter groups and bases, or whatever designation they were seeking. Meet me here, are you still alive, would love to talk and catch up - some of the loveliest notes. And watching them reunite with hugs and tears in their eyes after so long was just the best thing - ever. Smithsonian photos are here, but here's a fantastic aerial shot of the ceremony, where you can see all the way back to the stage toward the Capitol.

Still to this day, it's one of the best weekends of my life. It just made you want to thank everyone in uniform everywhere. So thank you.

Later that year, my parents went to visit it, and according to my sister, as my dad (a baby boomer born at the tail end of the war) was walking around, someone came up to him and said very somberly...thank you.
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1 comment:

jen said...

You shoulda found a pic of Rosie the Riveter from the festival. Heh. My favorite was seeing notes from members of Easy Company, from "Band of Brothers"!

Oh! And when we tried to get people to come in for the landscaping program.

Veteran who left the program early: They got it built. That's all I care about.