One of the many consequences of the pandemic over the past year and a half has been the cancellation of honor flights to Washington, DC The flights carry as many American veterans as possible to see the memorials of the respective wars in which they fought at no cost to the veterans. Sadly, many of our WWII veterans passed away without being able to participate in an honor flight.
Over the past few weeks these flights have resumed and I am delighted to see my fellow WWII veterans from Kansas to New York via California travel to our nation’s capital to visit the WWII National Memorial. World War and other war memorials.
I am fortunate enough to live fairly close to Washington, DC so I can visit the WWII Memorial as often as I can physically. It is a beautiful and spiritual home where I feel connected to my military brothers and sisters who fought and died in WWII.
The Memorial honors the 16 million people who served in the United States armed forces 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 peace and freedom of tyranny through the world.
Recently, I learned that the memorial is in need of critical repairs and maintenance. The National Park Service, which oversees the maintenance of the memorial, has an estimated backlog of $ 12 billion – about $ 1 billion allocated to the National Mall alone. The repairs and maintenance of the memorial, which are necessary, are not high on the list of priorities.
There is still some good news. U.S. Representatives Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, and Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois, introduced the National World War II Memorial Commemorative Coin Act, a bill authorizing the U.S. Treasury to mint coins in commemoration of the National World War II Memorial . Proceeds from the sale of commemorative coins will be used to maintain and repair the memorial as well as for commemorative and educational programs.
The bill has 285 cosponsors but needs at least 290 House cosponsors before it can be put to a vote. Senators Mike Rounds, R-South Dakota, and Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire, also introduced a companion bill to the Senate, the “Greatest Generation Memorial Act”. Call my rep, Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton, D-10e, and Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine for supporting this important bipartisan legislation.
Retired Col. James Riffe is a 100-year WWII Army veteran who lives in Gainesville, Virginia.