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Construction is underway on Oregon WWII Memorial in Salem

Dedication is planned for June 6, on the 70th anniversary of D-Day


by: SGT. 1ST CLASS APRIL DAVIS/OREGON MILITARY DEPARTMENT PUBLIC AFFAIRS  - BIG KICK-OFF - The onsite construction of Oregon's World War II Memorial started Feb. 3 at Willson Park on the grounds of the state Capitol on the corner of Cottage and State streets in Salem. An informal gathering of supporters took place at the construction site to celebrate the milestone. In attendance were Lou Jaffe, president of the World War II Memorial Foundation, along with a number of the foundation's board members, Oregon state legislators, WWII veterans, including Leonard DeWitt and Tom Kay, and Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs Director Cameron Smith and former ODVA director Jim Willis. The onsite construction of Oregon's World War II Memorial started on the grounds of the state Capitol on Feb. 3.

While no formal ceremony occurred, World War II Memorial Foundation board members and President Lou Jaffe, Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs Director Cameron Smith and supporters observed the start of construction.

A formal dedication ceremony at the memorial is planned for June 6, the 70th anniversary of the Allied landings on the beaches of Normandy, France, on D-Day.

Jaffe said the purpose of the memorial is not only to honor that war's veterans but to educate young people. The memorial will honor members of the armed services plus everyone on the home front who demonstrated support through their work in the shipyards, in hospitals, as coast watchers, on the farms and elsewhere.

That includes women who built ships in Portland and schoolchildren who held scrap metal drives and hauled wagons full of tin cans to make their small but significant contributions.

"It was probably our nation's finest hour, coming together in a unified manner," Jaffe said. "And that's what we're trying to preserve. All will be acknowledged in a series of storyboards that highlight Oregon's involvement in the war on the home front and specific military units.

"The veterans, families and Oregonians who participated in World War II deserve to have a memorial."

Located at the corner of Cottage and State streets, the memorial will cover a 75-by-75-foot area. At its center will be a 33-foot-high obelisk, because Oregon is the 33rd state in the union. A world map will be engraved on the memorial's footprint with markers for major battles and theaters of operation in the war.

Oregon has been one of only six states in the U.S. without a World War II memorial to honor its resident veterans.

In 2011, then-Gov. Ted Kulongoski and the Oregon Legislature formalized a task force and foundation, authorizing it to build an official memorial in Salem.

The foundation's late-2013 fundraising efforts activated several matching grants that helped the project come closer to its needed goal of raising $1.135 million before construction could begin.

Jaffe expressed deep appreciation for the generosity of the Larry and Jeannette Epping Family Fund, the Murdock Charitable Trust, the R.H. Parker/United Foundation, Dick Withnell, and several other major contributors who helped make this endeavor a reality.

"But the largest donation came from the state of Oregon, (which) provided funding and support," he said. "We are incredibly grateful to (it) and to the hundreds of private donors too."

Along the corner of a low wall on the memorial will be the engraved names of the Oregon service members who died in or as the result of combat.

Two black granite benches will invite visitors to sit and reflect on the nation's and Oregon's shared sacrifice during wartime.

With more than 1,200 veterans from that war passing away each day nationally, there has been a strong sense of urgency to build the memorial.

Approximately 152,000 Oregonians served in World War II and of those, more than 3,700 gave their lives. There are more than 20,000 Oregonian World War II veterans still living.

For information regarding the memorial's construction, contact project manager Bob Plame at 503-887-6033.

Donations to the memorial are still being accepted at www.oregonwwiimemorial.com.