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June 5, 2004
Column #1,188

                                       The Best Memorial

       This Memorial Weekend has been particularly moving. On Friday night before the
National World War II Memorial was dedicated, I went there to interview veterans.

     I had read nothing but criticism of its "17,000 pieces of granite." Columnist George Will sneered, "Banal." Others observed, "Too impersonal, too lacking in the essential story of that great global conflict." 

     That was decidedly not my impression, nor that of the veterans it attracted.

     Above a wall with 4,000 gold stars, each representing 100 Americans who died, framed on either side by falling water, I could see the Lincoln Memorial in the distance, behind the long reflecting pool. In the opposite direction is the stately Washington Monument. Between those monuments to the men who created the union and preserved it, is a new Memorial to those whose sacrifice extended America's freedom to Europe and much of Asia.

     How did World War II veterans react? "It haunts me," said Steve Habran, 83, his voice cracking. A veteran of the D-Day Landing 60 years ago, he whispered, "It's beautiful."

     Another D-Day veteran from Ohio, Harlan E. Montis, 81, spoke similarly, "It's beautiful, a great tribune to the men who served. It is long overdue." True. Within walking distance are monuments to more recent wars: the famous Vietnam Memorial and a Korean War Memorial.

     Both veterans and others I met were accompanied by their proud families: wives, their adult children, grandchildren. "I'm so grateful to my son for bringing me here," said one. The next day, 117,000 World War II veterans gathered on the Mall with their families.

     President George W. Bush spoke as his own family of children, mother and father, former President George H.W. Bush, listened. The elder Bush bailed out of a flaming torpedo bomber, strafed by antiaircraft fire in1944, south of Japan, that was fatal to his two crew members.

     The younger Bush's voice broke as he told the crowd, "These were the modest sons of a peaceful country, and millions of us are very proud to call them, 'Dad.' They gave the best years of their lives to the greatest mission their country ever accepted."

     If you are the son or daughter of the 4 million World War II veterans who are still alive, I urge you to give them the gift of seeing this magnificent tribute to their service. Bring them here.

     If you have no such connection, what can you do to honor those who put their lives on the line, especially those at risk in Iraq today? My son, Adam, offered a suggestion to the listeners of his daily Christian talk show, "Take A Stand," on KSLR, an AM station in San Antonio:

     "Send a care package that includes $150 worth of donated items secured by Feed the Children that includes a New Testament from the American Bible Society, a New York Times coffee-table book commemorating the victims of 9/ll, a cool wrap to help lower the body temperature of the soldier in the oppressive heat, a Christian CD featuring the hits of the top artists, personal hygiene items like soap, toothpaste and toilet paper and snack items like beef jerky, cookies and crackers."

     "The cost to sponsor a care package, which pays for the packing and shipping, is just $15." Last Thursday, KSLR listeners sponsored 813 care packages and 793 more the next day. The average gift was $90, in which a donor paid for 6 care packages worth $900.

     Adam also asked listeners to e-mail him a message to the troops that would go in each of their care packages. A sample of comments:

     The Stepan family wrote, "I would just like to say a big THANKS for what you are doing over there for all of us in the USA! We really think about you a lot and pray for you constantly!"

     Mr. Judy Keck quoted Joshua 1:9: "Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."

     As a result of the prison scandals, troop morale has never been lower. Most have served honorably, and they feel unrecognized. The New York Times book alone will be passed from soldier to soldier, telling of lives lost on 9/ll. "It will remind them why they are there," said Larry Jones, President of Feed the Children.

     Will you really support the troops? 

     Call 888 582-4453 to make a contribution, and e-mail me your message to a soldier,, which I'll forward to Feed the Children.

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