- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 27, 2006

At the low plaza with sweeping views of the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, an octogenarian is a bit of a celebrity.

It doesn’t matter that he isn’t rich or famous. Here, at the National World War II Memorial, a man in a cap advertising his long-ago ship or Army unit is a living reminder of what the visitors have gathered to contemplate.

Henry Stinehart of Swanton, Ohio, will be 81 on July 4. He fought in World War II in Italy and France with the 36th Infantry of the Texas National Guard. His son, Glen, has brought him on this sunny May day to get his first glimpse of the memorial, which opened on Memorial Day 2004.

“I’m proud I served,” says Mr. Stinehart, who adds that he received a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. “Every man in my family had served in a war since the Civil War.”

Some tourists nod in appreciation to the elder veterans. Others stop to talk about their war experiences.

The World War II Memorial is as simple as it is beautiful. The 7.4-acre site, funded mostly by private donations and operated by the National Park Service, is centered around a granite plaza. The 17th Street entrance to the memorial is lined with 12 bas-relief sculptures depicting the war overseas and on the home front.

The main portion of the plaza is a fountain, where many signs remind visitors that this is a place for respect and reflection — so no wading or splashing.

Flanking the fountain areas are pavilions representing the Atlantic and Pacific, symbolizing a war that was fought on two ends of the Earth. Connecting the pavilions are 56 pillars with names of U.S. states, territories and the District of Columbia. The pillars represent the unity of the states during wartime. On each pillar is a giant wreath symbolizing the nation’s industrial and agricultural strength, which were important parts of the war effort.

At the Lincoln Memorial side is a wall with 4,000 bronze stars that represent the more than 400,000 Americans who lost their lives in the war.

All along the walls are names of World War II battles as well as famous quotes from Gen. George C. Marshall, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, President Truman and other important wartime figures.

“Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid,” reads one inscription from Mr. Truman. “They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices.”

Not forgetting the sacrifice was one of the reasons the memorial was built. When it opened, World War II veterans were dying at a rate of 1,000 a day.

Benjamin Jankowski, 87, of Falls Church was in the Pacific with the Army Air Corps in World War II. He was at the groundbreaking for the memorial in 2000 and recently made his first visit to the completed memorial, along with his son and granddaughter.

“It is absolutely important” to remember the war and talk about war experiences, Mr. Jankowski says. “One of my most vivid memories was the surrender of Japan. I have photos from that day. I was there.”

Memorial visitor Carol Cheswick Ross of Darien, Conn., stops to hear some of Mr. Jankowski’s story.

“My dad was a navigator on B-17s out of England,” she says. Mrs. Ross is visiting the memorial with her family, including four children ages 9 to 20. They came here to bury her father, Richard Cheswick, at Arlington Cemetery.

“My dad was 81 when he died,” Mrs. Ross says, “but he essentially should have died at 20 [in the war]. My son is 20. Instead of being at college, he could be bombing in Germany. My dad always talked about the war. That’s one of the reasons we wanted to take the kids here.”

When you go:

Location: The National World War II Memorial is at 17th Street and Constitution Avenue Northwest on the Mall.

Hours: The plaza is open 24 hours a day. The visitors center is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily except Dec. 25.

Admission: Free

Parking: Limited street parking is nearby. The closest Metro stop is the Smithsonian stop on the Orange and Blue lines.

More information: 202/619-7222 or www.nps.gov/nwwm.

Notes:

• The visitors center offers restrooms and touch-screen computers where visitors can look veterans up by name.

• In the summer months, wear sunscreen when visiting, as the memorial area offers very little shade.

• The memorial is completely handicapped accessible.

• U.S. Park rangers give tours and talks at regular intervals. Check the visitors center for the day’s schedule.


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