A decade and a half after it was unveiled, the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., has begun to deteriorate, and in response, a bipartisan group of lawmakers has proposed legislation to help raise millions of dollars in needed repair funds.
The Greatest Generation Memorial Act, introduced by U.S. senators Maro Rubio, R-Fla., Mike Rounds, R-S.D., and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., last week, would allow the U.S. Treasury Department to mint coins in commemoration of the memorial. If enacted, the bill will authorize proceeds from coin sales to go toward repairs and maintenance at the memorial and support commemorative and educational programming.
“We must make sure this memorial is properly maintained for generations to come,” Rounds said. “Our bipartisan legislation will support the restoration of this memorial and further education about the Greatest Generation through the creation of a commemorative coin.”
The National World War II Memorial has hosted over 70 million visitors since its dedication in 2004. The memorial honors the 16 million who served in the United States Armed Forces during World War II, the more than 400,000 who died and the millions who supported the war effort stateside, according to the Memorial’s website.
“Those who bravely sacrificed their lives to serve our nation in World War II deserve to be honored,” Rubio said in a statement. “The National World War II Memorial is a place to commemorate and remember those who valiantly served.”
Since its opening in 2004, the memorial has begun deteriorating, with large cracks appearing in the granite columns, which resulted in partial closure of the monument in 2019. The memorial is funded by the National Park Service, but the Park Service currently has a $12 billion capital construction backlog, so the legislation will support quick repairs to the monument.
Proceeds from coin sales would go to the Friends of the National World War II Memorial, a nonprofit founded in 2007, which works to maintain and repair the memorial, and provides educational and commemorative programming about World War II.
Currently, there is an estimated $3 million to $5 million worth of immediate repairs needed at the memorial. If the coins sell out, they will net $9 million, and any money raised from coin sales that does not go towards immediate repairs will be used to start an endowment for memorial maintenance, according to a spokesperson from the Friends of the National WWII Memorial.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars, Paralyzed Veterans of America, the Commemorative Air Force, the Afikim Foundation and the 82nd Airborne Division Association have endorsed the legislation.
In addition to Rubio, Rounds, and Shaheen, Sens. Steve Daines, R-Mont.; Maggie Hassan, D-N.H.; John Thune, R-S.D.; Bob Menendez, D-N.J.; Rick Scot, R-Fla.; Jim Inhofe, R-Okla.; and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., cosponsored the legislation, according to a press release on Rubio’s website.
Lianna Brown is an editorial intern at Military Times. She is studying government and politics at George Mason University.