WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - World War I is long over, but now, those heroes will never be forgotten. A new memorial in the nation’s capital is set to be dedicated this week. Until now, it’s the only major conflict from the 20th century that did not have a national memorial in Washington, D.C.
“We are finally being able to speak for those who no longer have a voice,” said Meredith Carr, deputy director of the WWI Centennial Commission.
The new memorial, located on Pennsylvania Avenue, honors the nearly five million Americans who fought for liberty overseas. Construction crews are putting the finishing touches on the project, leading up to a debut ceremony Friday that will include a military flyover.
Building this memorial was one of the goals of the World War I Centennial Commission, created by Congress in 2013. Its executive director, Dan Dayton, says this conflict ushered in civil rights and women’s entry to the workplace.
“This was a huge turning point in the United States. And we refer to it as the war that changed the world,” said Dayton.
Visitors will experience the stories of heroism and learn more about the man who led the American Expeditionary Forces into victory, General John Pershing. During the first colors ceremony, a soldier will play the very bugle that was used at General Pershing’s headquarters during the war.
“The parents of the greatest generation in World War I will be honored here, taking its rightful place alongside World War II, Vietnam, and Korea,” said Carr.
There’s one piece of the memorial that won’t be ready on opening day — a 65 ft. bronze sculptural wall, called A Soldier’s Journey.
“It tells the story of a soldier leaving home, seeing battle…and then returning home to his family and passing the helmet on to his daughter, which symbolizes the greatest generation,” said Carr.
A canvas stands in its place for now, but visitors can use an app to see the wall come to life through virtual reality.
The bronze wall will be largest free-standing bronze relief in the Western hemisphere. It’s on track to be unveiled in DC in 2024 on Memorial Day.
The memorial itself is scheduled to open to the public Saturday.