- The Washington Times - Friday, May 28, 2004

Today, amid tight security because of the war on terrorism, the nation will dedicate the National World War II Memorial to honor the generation that defeated fascism in the 1940s.

“This event poses a special challenge. Months and months of planning have gone into this security plan,” said U.S. Park Police spokesman Sgt. Scott Fear. “What makes this plan unique is that two things came into play — the security for dignitaries attending but also the aides, and needs of those attending the event.”

The U.S. Park Police is coordinating the security effort, which involves more than 35 federal, state and local agencies. Hundreds of police officers and federal agents — in uniforms and plain clothes — will patrol the Mall on foot, in the air and by electronic surveillance during the dedication, which is expected to attract more than 200,000 visitors.

President Bush is scheduled to accept the memorial on behalf of the American people and deliver a speech near the end of the 90-minute dedication ceremony, which will begin at 2 p.m.

The president will express the nation’s gratitude to the World War II generation and also talk about how the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that drew the United States into the war in 1941 “changed America’s view that we could live in isolation from the plots of aggressive powers, and the importance of opposing them,” said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

“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. The memorial will stand as an important symbol of America’s national unity,” Mr. McClellan said.

Also scheduled to speak:

• Rep. Marcy Kaptur, the Ohio Democrat who proposed the original legislation in 1987 to build the memorial.

• NBC-TV news anchor Tom Brokaw, who chronicled veterans’ stories in his book, “The Greatest Generation.”

• Academy Award-winning actor Tom Hanks, who co-produced with director Steven Spielberg “A Band of Brothers,” an HBO miniseries about World War II soldiers.

• Former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, who lost the use of his right arm in the war and campaigned to raise money to build the memorial.

Weather forecasts call for sunny skies, warm temperatures and mild humidity. The weather had been a concern for the dedication organizers because of the advanced age of many of the veterans who will attend. The average age of World War II veterans is 79.

Several dozen doctors and other medical personnel have volunteered to tend to any ailing visitors on the Mall.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that more than 1,000 World War II veterans die each day, and as many as 100,000 are expected to be on the Mall today.

Organizers have encouraged all who plan attend to use Metro as transportation. Metro has stationed emergency medical technicians at downtown subway stations, where about 100 volunteers will be on hand today to help riders find their way.

Entrance points to ticketed areas will open at 8 a.m., and police have allowed for a slower movement of people through security machines, given the age and medical condition of many attendees, Sgt. Fear said.

Sgt. Fear said officers and agents are determined to thwart any terrorist acts.

“There seems to be a patriotism and a feeling among officers and agencies helping in this event to take pride in this day and make sure this is a safe event,” he said. “I believe this is probably going to be the safest city in the nation during that event.”

An interfaith service of remembrance and thanksgiving will be held at 10 a.m. in the Washington National Cathedral. After the dedication, a tribute concert will be held in front of the Capitol from 4 to 6 p.m.

For their part, veterans have expressed gratitude that their contribution is being recognized but have downplayed the importance of their individual efforts.

“We were just ordinary people called upon to do extraordinary things,” Mr. Dole said. “Everybody understood this was the big one, that if we didn’t do what we did, we wouldn’t be here today as a free and successful democracy.”

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