One week ago in Washington, another memorial was unveiled – several decades late. But the 17 years’ worth of bureaucratic hemming and hawing it took to create the masterpiece might just have been worth it for the World War II veterans present at the “Last Good War” memorial’s opening.
And the last good war it was. Perhaps the last solidly justifiable war in which the United States took part, World War II was a classic example of good versus evil. The Allies took on powers bent on obtaining world domination and inciting genocide to gain it. There were few blurred lines when it came to World War II: The United States had the world’s true best interests in mind when it entered the war, and had a moral obligation to do so.
World War II sparked innumerable movements and trends of the last half of the 20th century. From the shadows of the Holocaust came the civil rights movement; because many men were called into service, women were accepted into the labor force; technological advances gained from war-related research – not the least of which was nuclear technology – have evolved into amenities most of us could not live without. The economic and political integration stemming from the end of the war has led to a peaceful Western Europe – and today, we can even reflect on the demise of communism in Eastern Bloc countries.
Truly, World War II was a massive loss of life. More than 400,000 Americans died in the line of duty; the new memorial recognizes them with 4,000 gold stars, one for each 100 soldiers. Sixteen million Americans served in total – and only 4 million (counting down to the tune of 1,100 veterans lost per day) remain to see the monument on Washington’s Mall. But the loss of life led to an increase in just that: The baby boomers and their children are just in time to appreciate the veterans now in their late 70s and 80s.
Perhaps it is ironic that the new memorial is unveiled at a time when our country is divided over the conflict in Iraq. But at least the monument re-emphasizes the importance of those who give to their country with their blood, sweat, tears and lives. Take a moment this summer to thank a World War II veteran and remember that in years to come, those who died in today’s conflicts will deserve similar commemoration.