On a chilly, wet day reminiscent of the Italian battlefield where he was wounded 52 years ago, former Sen. Bob Dole launched a campaign Wednesday to raise $100-million for a World War II memorial on the National Mall.
Dole, who lost the 1996 presidential election to President Clinton, said the memorial was a small repayment to the men and women who sacrificed "in home-front factories and on distant battlefields."
"We owe them a debt," he said. "We repay it with a pledge: to preserve their memory against the tide of time."
The Kansas Republican, who lost the use of his right arm to a near-fatal war wound, has agreed to lead the fund-raising drive. He said a monument will bear witness long after the men and women who served are gone.
"Witness to young men who liberated whole continents from tyranny, armed with courage and stainless patriotism," he said in his rumbling baritone. "Witness to young soldiers who willingly died for a future they would never see. Witness to the character of a noble generation."
The memorial will be between the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial on 7.4 acres at the east end of the Reflecting Pool. The heart of the memorial site is a large plaza and adjacent Rainbow Pool set off by curving stone columns. It will be built close to several other military monuments, including the Korean War Veterans Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
Although supporters of the memorial are moving forward with fund raising, opponents of the location say they hope to find another site.
"I don't think anything should be built there," said Sen. Bob Kerrey, a Medal of Honor recipient who lost part of his leg in the Vietnam War. "It is a sacred spot. It is a place people go to reflect."
Kerrey said the World War II memorial would mar the view of other monuments along the mall and attempts to minimize that impact have only deteriorated the design of the proposed memorial. He is urging the Department of Interior to refuse a construction permit.
For Dole, who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom earlier this year, the brief ceremony Tuesday brought back memories of his own service in the 10th Mountain Division.
"We did not hear the call of history, we heard the voices of friends," he said choking back emotion. "Voices that still haunt and comfort the memory of veterans. Voices of confidence. Voices of fear. Voices that ended in a moment, in a place far from home. I can hear them as if it were yesterday, frozen in time by the intensity of the experience we shared."
Since the presidential campaign, Dole has appeared in a handful of TV commercials, sitcoms and talk shows. He is negotiating with several Washington law firms for lobbying work but told reporters Wednesday he is staying out of politics _ including commenting on the campaign fund-raising scandal dominating the capital.
"I'm retired," he said with a grin.
Want to help?
Donations may be sent to World War II Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 96766, Washington, D.C. 20090-4992.
World War II memorial on the Mall
Sponsors are working to raise $100-million for construction of a monument to Americans killed in World War II that would be built on a 7.4-acre site on Washington's National Mall.
Critics oppose the use of the site between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.
Sources: American Battle Monuments Commission, news reports