Welders, wars, and monuments

March 2, 2011

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FDR Quote on WWII Memorial

On a recent trip to the Washington D.C. area, my husband and I took the American Spirit Monument Tour. With only a little time for sightseeing, we had to choose what we wanted to see most, and the monuments won out. Yes, I have seen them many times in movies — who can forget the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool shown in scenes from Forrest Gump — and TV footage, but there's nothing quite like seeing the monuments in person. What beautiful national treasures. Photos and media clips simply don't do them justice.

These monuments immortalize many important figures in our nation's history, including welders and other metal fabricators.

Of special interest to me were the World War II, Korean, and Vietnam Memorials. Relatives and friends fought in all three, and they were with me in spirit as I visited these sites.

I expected the war memorials to pay homage to those who fought in combat. What I did not expect and was pleased to see was the acknowledgement of all those unsung heroes and heroines on the home front who did their parts, such as those who "stoked the furnaces … hurried the factory wheels … made the planes … welded the tanks … riveted the ships and rolled the shells." These words, from a quote by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, were etched on a panel of the World War II Memorial, which also contains bas-relief sculpture panels depicting wartime scenes of combat and the home front, including Rosie the Riveter, aircraft construction, and ship building.

Apex Piping of Newport, Delaware, fabricated the stainless steel armature that holds up the eagles and wreathes on the World War II Memorial, which was the first of the war memorials on the tour.

Next up was the Korean Memorial, which features 19 stainless steel statues, each approximately 7ft. 3 in. tall and sculpted by Frank Gaylord of Barre, Vt. (who later sued the U.S. government for copyright infringement). The statues then were cast by Tallix Foundry of Beacon, N.Y. Eerie, in a good way, they appear to be in motion, walking into the wind, and also talking with one another. Definitely worth seeing.

The Vietnam memorial was not what I expected. This was the war of my generation. The memorial is situated so that it is not visible from street level. If you are driving on the road that runs alongside it, you won't see it. It was intentionally designed this way — rules, which were explained by our tour guide. Yes, it's very moving to walk along the wall and see all the names etched there. My husband found his cousin's name among them. But it's below ground, and I have a problem with that.

However, this is not the forum to air my personal feelings. Rather, it's an opportunity to acknowledge the welders and fabricators who not only help behind the scenes, but also serve in combat — from the World War II workers acknowledged by FDR, to welders like Marty Rice (Vietnam) and his students who have gone on to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan (if you haven’t read about Kyle, you need to). I'm proud of welders and fabricators, whose handiwork and service have helped build and preserve our country.

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Vicki Bell

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