By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (April 16, 2021) -- The nation's capital has national memorials commemorating the sacrifices of service men and women who died in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. Until this year, there hasn't been a national memorial commemorating World War I.
Today, during a "first colors" ceremony, the U.S. flag was raised for the first time over the newly-constructed National World War I Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Nearly 4.7 million Americans served in uniform during WWI, with more than 2 million of those deploying overseas. By war's end, 204,000 of those who deployed had been wounded, and nearly 117,000 had been killed.
"The Great War [touched] almost every American family at the time," President Joe Biden said during a recorded presentation before the raising of the flag. "For too long, that nationwide service has not been fully commemorated here in the nation's capital. This memorial finally will offer a chance for people to visit and reflect and to remember. More than 100 years has passed since WWI ended, but the legacy and courage of those Doughboys sailing off to war, and the values they fought to defend, still live in our nation today."
The new memorial features sculptures, fountains and quotes which pay tribute to those who served in World War I. It shares a space with an existing memorial dedicated to General of the Armies John "Black Jack" Pershing, who served as commander of the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I. The site is a short walk east of the White House.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley said the site is a testament to the strength of the American people, and that it honors the bravery and sacrifice made by service members during what was known as "the Great War," which he characterized as a war of stalemate, trenches and attrition.
"It is our duty to remember what they fought for and why they fought," Milley said. "Thought to be the war to end all wars, those who lived it experienced unimaginable carnage. And by the end of the conflict, it ripped apart four empires and killed more than 22 million people, and it set the conditions for World War II, 20 years later -- which was the most destructive war in human history."
World War I ended 102 years ago, but the effects of that conflict are still felt today, Milley said.
"It was one of the most significant events to fundamentally shape the modern world," he said.
At the memorial, the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) raised the American flag for the first time over the site, while a bugler from the U.S. Army Band "Pershing's Own," played "To the Colors" on a bugle once owned by Pershing himself. As an added tribute, there was a flyover by two F-22 Raptor aircraft from the 94th Fighter Squadron, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia.