Crumbling Memorials


This was a sad thing to read on Memorial Day. We’re nearly a hundred years on from World War I, and many of the memorials to our honored dead have begun to succumb to age and neglect. Meanwhile, cities eye the space and wonder if it could be put to better use. From the Hawaiian example:

The faded structure has been closed to the public for decades, the object of seemingly endless debate over whether it should be demolished or restored to its former glory. The latest plan is to replace it with a beach, more practical for the state’s lucrative tourism industry – and millions of dollars cheaper, according to state and local officials. They say a full restoration could cost nearly $70 million.

The corroding monument has challenged the community to maneuver a delicate question: How do we honor those who have served when memorials deteriorate and finances are tight?

Similar debates have been playing out across the nation.

The last U.S. veteran of WWI died only a few years ago, and there are doubtless children of WWI veterans still alive. It’s a shame that our memorials to their sacrifice would crumble so (relatively) soon. But, the inescapable truth is that they have.

I broadly agree with the mayor of Honolulu’s sentiments, who said of this specific memorial that, “The greater disrespect is allowing the pool to continue to crumble and fall into the sea…”

While we as a nation won’t forget the sacrifices of these men, our memorials to them will inevitably become more and more expensive to maintain. Though it rankles, perhaps the better thing is to retire the memorials and preserve what can be preserved, if there is no private money to maintain them.