By Mr. George Markfelder (JFHQNCRMDW)May 27, 2014
WASHINGTON (May 24, 2014) -- Memorial Day weekend is a time to recognize our military's support in keeping the nation free, and during the 10th Anniversary commemoration of the World War II Memorial on the National Mall this holiday weekend, that support was once again, very evident.
The U.S. Military District of Washington provided military support for the event including performances by the U.S. Armed Forces Color Guard, U.S. Navy Ceremonial Band and the presentation of the 56 State and Territorial Flags carried by members from each of the five military services.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, former Senators Bob and Elizabeth Dole, and other dignitaries gathered at the popular memorial site in the District, on Saturday, to pay tribute to the Greatest Generation.
The National World War II Memorial 10th Anniversary Commemoration was co-hosted by the Friends of the National World War II Memorial (Friends) and the National Park Service. Friends Chairman retired Army Lt. Gen. Mick Kicklighter spoke on behalf of Friends at the event.
"As Americans, Memorial Day is the time to remember and honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation," said Kicklighter. "The Memorial's 10th Anniversary Commemoration provides us a unique opportunity to also celebrate our World War II veterans who served overseas, all those who served on the home front, and the spirit of unity of the American people during this pivotal time in our nation's history, all of which are symbolically represented throughout the magnificent WWII Memorial."
Hagel, whose father Charles Dean Hagel served with the Army Air Force during World War II, gave the keynote address and was followed by comments from WWII Wounded Warrior Senator Bob Dole, who served as a co-chair of the national fundraising campaign to build the Memorial, raising nearly $200 million.
During the Memorial Day weekend event, dozens of World War II veterans placed wreaths at the memorial's Freedom Wall in remembrance of the more than 400,000 Americans who lost their lives during WWII.
Two such veterans were Robert Quenkin, 51st Combat Engineer Battalion, Utah Beach, Normandy, and Alan Kukens, a member of the 20th Armor Division, that liberated those held at the Nazi death camp, Dachau. Lukens went on to become the U.S. ambassador to the Congo from 1984 - 87. Both veterans were escorted during by Maj. Gen. Jeffrey S. Buchanan, U.S. Army Military District Washington's commanding general, and whose command coordinated the military support for the event.
"It's a beautiful day," said Quenkin. "I am glad to see so many of us [WWII veterans] are here to see this."
According to statistics released by the Veteran's Administration, America's World War II vets are dying at a rate of approximately 550 a day. This means there are approximately only 1.2 million veterans remaining of the 16 million who served the nation in World War II.
Founded in 2007, the Friends of the National World War II Memorial is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to honoring and preserving the national memory of World War II. The nonprofit organization was established by a group of private citizens involved in the Memorial from its inception to its dedication. The National World War II Memorial honors those who served and pays tribute to the spirit of unity and shared purpose, which defined the character of the country during the war years.