WASHINGTON - Officials broke ground on a new national memorial in Washington, D.C. Thursday to honor the millions of Americans who served in World War I, 100 years after the United States got involved in the conflict.
The memorial will be built in Pershing Park, a small plaza about a block away from the White House.
More than 100,000 Americans died in the war and more than 200,000 others were injured. Now, nearly 100 later, there are no living survivors from World War I.
"It's a national tragedy that the millions of veterans of the Great War have not been memorialized in our capitol,” said Terry Hamby, commissioner of the United States World War I Centennial Commission.
"There was so much sacrifice in World War I, it's time for America to build a memorial to the forgotten war." Hamby’s grandfather fought in the war. His uncle died in it.
“It means a lot to me, personally, because when you have a memorial and you can go stand in front of it, the emotion burst forth,” Hamby said.
In Washington, D.C., other American wars are honored with a national memorial, including World War II, as well as the wars in Korea and Vietnam.
The Centennial Commission was established by Congress in 2013 and authorized to create a new national-level memorial in the nation's capital, to honor the men and women who served.
Denise Rohan, National Commander of the American Legion, expressed support for the memorial and the veterans it will honor.
“Their legacy is one of freedom and heroism. Some paid the ultimate price. The American Legion supports this overdue memorial because the world must forever remember the story of those men and women who liberated a continent. Sadly, it was not the war to end all wars. But, by studying their legacy, tyrants should be on notice that America will not allow evil to go unchallenged,” Rohan said.
The goal is to build the memorial by Veterans Day of 2018, which would mark the 100th anniversary of the agreement that brought an end to the war.
While this will become the first national monument to World War I in Washington, D.C., there is a National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, dedicated to honoring those who served in the war.