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Mo. lawmakers fight WWI memorial in Washington

Wednesday, September 24, 2008 | 3:20 p.m. CDT; updated 4:17 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, September 24, 2008

KANSAS CITY— Missouri's congressional delegation is opposing an effort to establish a World War I Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Congressman Ted Poe, R-Texas, has filed legislation to create a memorial to World War I veterans on the National Mall.
But Missouri lawmakers say such a move would diminish the importance of Kansas City's Liberty Memorial, which Congress has designated as the National World War I Museum.
"If the World War I monument is established in Washington, it essentially takes the Liberty Memorial off the map,'' Democratic Rep. Emanuel Cleaver told The Kansas City Star for a story published Wednesday. "This is not a little matter. It's a major issue for the people of Missouri.''
Cleaver and Republican Sen. Kit Bond have filed bills in their respective chambers to ensure that Kansas City hosts events surrounding the 100th anniversary of the war, which will begin in 2014.
Poe has defended his proposal for a monument in Washington, arguing that the space between the U.S. Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial already contains monuments honoring the Korean and Vietnam wars and World War II.
His bill would expand  the existing World War I Memorial in D.C. to commemorate all Americans who fought in the war. He recently discussed the bill while standing next to Frank Buckles, the last surviving American World War I veteran. Buckles, 107, was born in Bethany.
"There's not a memorial for all the World War I veterans among all the other memorials,'' Poe spokeswoman DeeAnn Thigpen said. "This is something that the congressman is very passionate about.''
Timing might be on the side of the Missouri lawmakers, however, because their bills could be taken up before Congress adjourns next week, while Poe's legislation might not come up until next year.
In addition, new monuments on the National Mall face several obstacles from federal and city officials, who must approve the design and other issues. Also, mall enthusiasts have complained that the mall now hosts too many monuments, and Congress has called the strip a "substantially completed work of civic art.''
Construction of the Liberty Memorial, including its 217-foot tower overlooking downtown Kansas City, began in 1921, three years after the armistice. Its dedication ceremony attracted some of the war's major military leaders, including Marshal Ferdinand Foch of France and American Expeditionary Force commander Gen. John Joseph "Black Jack'' Pershing, a Missouri native.
Anita Gorman, a memorial trustee, spoke to President Bush earlier this year about Kansas City hosting the centennial events when he was in town for a fundraiser.
She and other supporters said having the events in Kansas City would improve Americans' understanding of the war and strengthen the city's effort to become the nation's official World War I memorial site.
"I feel so strongly that this community can do this right,'' she said. "It seems to me the people around here reflect the values of this country about as well as any place you could find.''


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