Today, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) introduced the Honoring World War I Memorials Act of 2017 in the U.S. House of Representatives to establish a grant program for rehabilitating memorials dedicated to the millions of Americans who served in World War I. The Department of Veterans Affairs would distribute the grants to assist in the restoration of World War I memorials owned or managed by nonprofit organizations and state and local governments.
The National Trust endorses this legislation to give World War I memorials the protection they deserve and raise awareness of their important role in ensuring that the sacrifices of those who served in the war are honored and not forgotten.
After the war, communities across our nation constructed unique “living” memorials with a utilitarian function, often connected to local culture and landscapes. They included auditoriums, gymnasiums, parks, bridges, and other cherished community resources. In Hawaii, as prime example, the Territorial Legislature constructed the only memorial in the country in the form of a saltwater swimming pool—the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium. Named a National Treasure in 2014, the Natatorium remains the most recognizable representation of the participation of Hawaii in World War I and testament to the islands’ swimming traditions.
Today, the Waikiki War Memorial Natatorium and many other war memorials are closed to the public, or suffer from disrepair. The deterioration of these significant places associated with our military history reflects poorly on our nation. As America reflects on the centennial of the war, join us in urging members of Congress to rise to the occasion and support the Honoring World War I Memorials Act of 2017.