In recent years, the US has paid great attention to its declining numbers of World War II veterans, and rightly so. But those who served in the First World War, however, have gone largely unnoticed.
Today, just a single American veteran of The Great War remains, Frank Buckles, a 108-year-old Army veteran who lives in West Virginia. He is one of fewer than a dozen World War I veterans alive in the world, more than 90 years after the end of the war to end all wars.
Nearly 117,000 American servicemen and women died in World War I, out of more than 4.7 million who served.
Sadly, there are relatively few national monuments in the US to honor those who served during the 1914-18 conflict. That caught the attention of Pamela Wills, a public affairs specialist for the Department of Veteran Affairs. She writes in The Torrance Daily Breeze:
“Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Washington, D.C., on a work assignment for my agency and, when I had time after work, I went to see some of the museums and monuments.
“I wanted to see the National World War II Memorial and, because one of my first assignments for the VA involved World War I veterans, I wanted to see any national monument to World War I.
“Only a few steps from the magnificent World War II memorial, I saw the District of Columbia World War I Memorial, partially hidden by a grove of trees. I only found it because I actually looked for it.
“I learned then that there is no national memorial to World War I anywhere in Washington.”
The DC monument honors the 499 individuals from the District of Columbia who died during the war. It was completed in 1931 and dedicated by President Herbert Hoover.
In 2003 and 2006, the memorial was named as one of the most endangered places in Washington, DC, by the District Preservation League, a nonprofit organization that promotes historic preservation in the capital, according to Wills.
Help may be on the way, however.
Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, recently introduced the Frank Buckles World War I Memorial Act to renovate the D.C. Memorial and rededicate it as a national shrine in 2018, when America observes the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.