Veterans, officials break ground on WWII memorial
By Chris Newmaker - Assosciated Press
TRENTON - New Jersey veterans and state officials looked to the last century yesterday with a ceremony to designate a local park the site of the state's future World War II memorial.
As the white-haired men who fought 60 years ago gathered the day before Veterans Day in the shadow of the Statehouse, it wasn't just the chilly air that caused eyes to water.
"I'm just here for the guys who came over there didn't come back," said John Moore, 84 of Kenilworth, who landed in Normandy with a U.S. Army infantry unit six days after D-Day.
More than half a million New Jerseyans served in both the European and Pacific theaters during World War II, the state's largest contribution of manpower to a war effort.
The memorial design by Robert Smith, the creator of the state's Korean War Memorial in Atlantic City, calls for the transformation of the single-lot Veterans Park into a rotunda with a statue of the Lady Victory facing the Statehouse dome. The rotunda is to be framed by fountains, an amphitheater and two-story-high walls.
Markers for all six branches of the military are to include the names of New Jersey Medal of Honor recipients. A timeline, images on walls and two electronic kiosks chosen by the commission that planned the monument will explain the important events of the war.
"They didn't just want it to be a memorial in their honor. They also wanted it to be educational for future generations," said Stephen G. Abel, state Veterans Affairs deputy commissioner.
The New Jersey World War II Commission spent four years planning the memorial, through Vice Chairman Albert W. Martis remembers the effort was even longer.
"I'm 84 years old now, and I didn't think I'd live to see this day," said Martis, a Lakewood resident who was shot in the face while fighting in the Marshall Islands with the U.S. Marines in 1944.
State budget problems delayed construction until February 2005. The state Legislature this year approved $2 million for the roughly $4 million project. The state Casino Redevelopment Authority is donating an additional $1 million, with veterans raising another $1 million.
The construction project for the memorial has yet to be awarded. A final memorial dedication is planned for fall 2005. Commission member M.E. "Ted" Behr Jr. is glad the state will formally remember a war that saw support from all quarters, with common citizens conducting recycling drives and growing "victory gardens."
The state's 26th Iraq war casualty, Army Spc. Bryan L. Freeman of Lumberton, was killed Monday, and Behr wondered whether Americans should rekindle some of the spirit shown in past wars.
"This war on terrorism is going to be a very long conflict," said Behr, 61. "It could last for up to 10 years. American have a very short memory."
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