Honoring WWII veterans: Traveling memorial coming to town

Jacksonville Journal Courier | May 20, 2021

A traveling World War II memorial is making its way to Jacksonville, a move AmVets commander Jim Duncan holds dear for what it could offer those who served.

“There are families that it could maybe bring some closure or peace to,” Duncan said.

A Vietnam War veteran himself, Duncan understands that some people haven’t been able to travel to Washington, D.C., to see the national memorial there, so bringing the traveling version to them serves a purpose.

“I know it’s going to be a great event,” Duncan said. “Not just for us, but for the entire community.”

The downtown square has been a temporary home to both a traveling Vietnam War memorial and a memorial to those who fought or died in Iraq or Afghanistan. But the WWII memorial is a lot larger and will require more space.

“Its about the size of a football field,” Duncan said. “It may end up in South Jacksonville.”

Jacksonville and South Jacksonville have been working together to make the stop happen.

The monument will be displayed Sept. 8-12. When the truck carrying it arrives, it will be escorted by police as it travels from Springfield and into Jacksonville.

“We have already agreed to do it,” Duncan said.

The traveling memorial will be free to visit while here, and Duncan is hoping to add some events for school groups in addition to other planned activities, including a prayer service and a possible candlelight vigil.

The annual 9/11 ceremony also may be held at the memorial instead of in downtown Jacksonville.

“It’s going to be very moving,” Duncan said.

The WWII traveling memorial will be the most expensive one to have visited Jacksonville, Duncan said, noting that AmVets is working to raise the necessary $15,000.

“The community has always been so supportive,” he said. “It’s the most expensive one we’ve done.”

When the Vietnam War memorial was on the square, it attracted upward of 6,000 people from outside the area, Duncan said, adding that he expects a similar response to the WWII memorial.

The memorial that sits in the National Mall in Washington, D.C., is dedicated to Americans who served in the armed forces during WWII. It includes 56 pillars — one for each U.S. state and territory — and a pair of small, triumphal arches the represent the war’s Atlantic and Pacific theaters. It surrounds an oval fountain. The memorial was opened April 29, 2004, and was dedicated by President George W. Bush on May 29, 2004.

More than 400,000 armed forces personnel died in WWII, and the memorial also has a wall displaying 4,048 gold stars, each one represents 100 American military deaths.

For Duncan, bringing the memorial and the honor to Jacksonville is simply “the right thing to do.”

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