WWI memorial on its way

Frank Buckles is smiling. And, reunited in the hereafter with his fellow doughboys, he may well be telling them, “See, fellas! I told you they wouldn’t forget us!”

Let’s hope Buckles keeps smiling as the dream he pursued for so many years – a national memorial to America’s World War I service men and women in Washington, D.C. – moves toward fruition.

Buckles was the last surviving American veteran of the Great War. He died Feb. 27, 2011 at his Gap View Farm near Charles Town, W.Va.

In his later years, Buckles campaigned tirelessly for a memorial in Washington to honor those who served with him in the war.

There were more than 4.7 million of them, many who went “over there” to encounter then-new killing devices ranging from poison gas to air forces, from machine guns to massed artillery barrages. Of those who served, 116,516 never made it home.

Finally, as if in shame that we allowed our last doughboy to pass on without attending to his humble plea, the government began taking Buckles’ idea seriously after he died. This week, five design concepts for the memorial, to be placed along Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House, were unveiled. All, at least in brief descriptions released, sound appealing.

But this is a government enterprise, with all the potential pitfalls that implies. They range from political correctness in the memorial itself to more delays to cost overruns.

Buckles had little patience with such issues. So if he is looking down on Washington with a smile on his face, his fingers may well be crossed.

Let’s not disappoint him and his fellow doughboys. Let’s get this done right.