The last month has provided a great inflection point for our country. As the war in Afghanistan ended and the 20th anniversary of Sept. 11 passed, many Americans have reflected on our country’s standing in the world. For many of us, we have mixed feelings about what America looks like today.
I grew up in a family that is steeped deep in service to one’s country. My family has served our country since its inception. It gives me a sense of pride, as well as responsibility, to those who have served and particularly those who have sacrificed for the freedoms and privileges we have in the United States.
I chose to serve in a different way in that I chose to teach. It allowed me to help youth understand the gifts that they have as a result of the choices made by the men and women of our military and the sacrifices they make. We discussed in depth the responsibility of freedom to choose, freedom to think, speak and share ideas. We also discussed the sacrifices made by many for that privilege.
What I strove to teach my students is that while our country may seem divided now, there was a time when our country was unified, had shared values and ideals. And that time was during one of the one traumatic events of the 20th century: World War II. That generation came together to fight authoritarianism, racism and fascism.
The greatest symbol and spiritual gathering place of that generation today is the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. 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 the broader causes of peace and freedom from tyranny throughout the world.
It inspires current and future generations of Americans, deepening their appreciation of what the World War II generation accomplished in securing freedom and democracy. Above all, the memorial stands as an important symbol of American national unity, a timeless reminder of the moral strength and awesome power that can flow when a free people are at once united and bonded together in a common and just cause.
The memorial is now 17 years old and starting to show some wear and tear. It is one of the most visited memorials on the National Mall. The National Park Service — the caretakers of the memorial — currently has a $12 billion maintenance backlog of priority work nationwide. Nearly $1 billion of this backlog is for the National Mall alone.
This spring, U.S. Reps. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Illinois) introduced the National World War II Memorial Commemorative Coin Act, which authorizes the U.S. Treasury to mint coins in commemoration of the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. 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.
The bill currently has 245 cosponsors, but needs at least 290 House cosponsors before it can be considered for a vote. The Greatest Generation Memorial Act S. 1596, a Senate companion bill, was introduced by Sens. Mike Rounds (R-South Dakota) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire). I’m calling on my representative U.S. Rep. Greg Murphy and Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis, to support these important bills to raise private dollars to make these repairs — potentially saving millions in taxpayer money, and make the repairs much sooner.
The U.S. House of Representatives and Senate should quickly pass the National World War II Memorial Commemorative Coin Act and the Greatest Generation Memorial Act, respectively, 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.
Brenda Most is a resident of Chocowinity and a retired Washington High School teacher.