The National World War II Memorial is to be found on the National Mall in Washington DC, at the end of the Reflecting Pool, quite close to the Washington Monument. It was completed in 2004. It is a large monument at the heart of which lies an oval fountain – and it is this fountain which has caused some heated controversy, for a number of visitors to the memorial have been using this fountain as a paddling pool.
War memorials are built in remembrance of those who fought for us, and of those who died for us and as such – most persons seem to feel that the memory of these sacrifices should receive an attitude of humbleness, gratefulness, and respect – which paddling in the fountain does not show. There are many, though, who feel that the enjoyment of cooling down by simply paddling in the water on a very hot day, does not show any lack of respect at all and that too much fuss has been made of a perfectly ordinary action – but the controversy regarding such use of the war monument continues.
This World War II Memorial is a monument to the spirit, sacrifice, and commitment of the American people. It has a Pacific Arch and an Atlantic Arch, each symbolising the American victory in those two areas of war. There is a huge wall, the Freedom Wall, covered in gold stars, each of which represents 100 American soldier’s lives. The fountain at the centre is surrounded by 56 columns representing America’s Unity, and there are many other items of both historical and symbolic significance. The monument was built to honour and commemorate the more than 400,000 servicemen who died during WW ii, and also to remember the approximately 16 million persons who served in the United Sates Armed Forces during that time, not forgetting those who supported the war effort at home. This memorial has been visited by a huge number of persons, and over 155,000 WW II veterans were enabled to visit it as well, thanks to groups such as the non-profit, Honor Flight Network, which paid for their trips there. Many of those veterans are elderly, some very emotional and many have come to seek closure.
Clearly positioned in the Monument fountain area is a National Park Service sign informing one that “ Coins damage fountain,” also, there are signs requesting one to “Honor Your Veterans” as well as signs which specify “No wading.” In spite of a Park Service Official saying that the Rangers will not arrest any of the huge numbers of visitors to the park who might well paddle in the pool, it smacks of defying authority and also of using a memorial as a place of play, which it was not intended to be.
To some people, particularly those who are war veterans and those with strong family connections to those remembered at this war memorial, it might well be hurtful and seen as disrespectful to their loved ones’ memory, to find persons wading in the pool of this particular monument. While the controversy rages on, one might do well to remember – ones point of view depends on what the memorial means to you personally. However, one should also take into account that this IS a War Memorial, a large, significant, National Memorial to millions of Americans – it is NOT a public swimming pool.