As we approach Veterans Day, I think of all the brave men and women who serve, and have served, in the military for our country. I’m eternally grateful for their sacrifice and commitment to our great country.
I’m also filled with a sense sadness and loss as I knew my father only briefly as he was killed in action in World War II 76 years ago. He was a hero who fought and died for his country. He is buried in Margraten at The Netherlands American Cemetery & Memorial along with 8,301 other American souls.
I have taken several trips to Holland to the cemetery and memorial and it is a moving and special place where local residents adopt the gravesites. They are thankful that the Americans liberated Holland from Nazi Germany and understand the sacrifices that were made by that generation.
Here in the United States, we have the beautiful and noble Arlington National Cemetery and the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. It is the first national Memorial dedicated to all who served during World War II and acknowledging the commitment and achievement of the entire nation.
Dedicated in 2004, the Memorial honors the 16 million who served in the Armed Forces of the U.S. during World War II, the more than 400,000 who died, and the millions who supported the war effort from home. Symbolic of the defining event of the 20th Century, the Memorial is a monument to the spirit, sacrifice, and commitment of the American people to the common defense of the nation and to peace and freedom from tyranny throughout the world.
The Memorial now is in need of critical repairs and maintenance. The National Park Service, which oversees the maintenance of the Memorial, has an estimated $12 billion backlog – approximately $1 billion allocated for the National Mall alone. Repairs and maintenance to the Memorial, which are needed, are not highest on the priority list.
There is good news though. Senators Mike Rounds (R-SD) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) have introduced a bill in the U.S. Senate, the Greatest Generation Memorial Act, a bill to authorize the U.S. Treasury to mint coins in commemoration of the National World War II Memorial. Proceeds from the sale of the commemorative coins will be used to maintain and repair the Memorial, as well as for commemorative and educational programming. Thankfully, a companion bill in the U.S. House will be considered for a vote within the next couple of weeks. The House bill was 292 cosponsors, so it should pass easily in the House.
The commemorative coin will serve as an important representation of the brave Americans who fought to defend the nation and advance peace and freedom throughout the world. The legislation ensures that the World War II Memorial will be properly and appropriately maintained, and that the commemorative and educational programming at the Memorial remains robust and substantial.
I call on my Senators, Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, to cosponsor this important bipartisan legislation in the U.S. Senate.
The U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate should quickly pass this legislation so the Memorial can stand the test of time and educational programming and commemorative events at the Memorial will continue so our younger generations understand the lessons of yesterday with the goal of uniting together today and tomorrow. I can think of no better way to continue to honor and preserve the legacy of all those who served in World War II.
Geraldine Conway Morenski is a resident of Groveland, MA Her father, U.S. Army Cpl. David Leonard Conway, was killed in action in Germany on April 15, 1945.