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Plans for national WWI memorial move forward

Tuesday - 8/12/2014, 2:09pm  ET

pershing_1200 Stewart
The plans (pictured here), would allow Pershing Park n Pennsylvania Avenue, to be redeveloped for a new national WWI memorial, say organizers. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)

WASHINGTON-- It's the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War, and the push is on to finally build a national memorial in Washington honoring those Americans who fought and died during what has been called "The Great War."

The idea is to "break ground (on) Veterans Day 2017 and dedicate it (on) Veterans Day 2018, which would be the 100th anniversary of the Armistice Day," the official end of the war, said Edwin Fountain.

Fountain is the vice-chairman of the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission. He says it's an optimistic plan, but he's confident congress will pass a bill by the end of the year. The bill, which has already passed the House of Representatives, would allow Pershing Park on Pennsylvania Avenue to be re-developed into a national memorial. He says there is no current opposition to the bill, and the Obama administration is behind it.

Fountain adds that it won't be elaborate like the World War II memorial, which cost about $180 million dollars. This memorial is expected to cost $10 to $15 million dollars and take on the somber tones of the war itself.

"It was not a triumphant war for anyone involved," Fountain reminded. More than 16 million people were killed across Europe -- 9.7 million military members and 6.8 million civilians.

He says they want the memorial to reflect the heroism of the American military, and the tragic loss of life on both the military and civilian sides. "We think that's suited by a more somber, simple but elegant memorial," noted Fountain.

Ideally, the monument would be on the National Mall. But since no new monuments or memorials are allowed on the Mall, he says Pennsylvania Avenue is the next best place.

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