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Wal-Mart stores help raise money for WWII memorial

By Vincent Z. Whaley
Johnson City Press Staff Writer

(PUBLISHED Sunday, Sept. 12, 1999)

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. — Positioned between the Vietnam War and Korean War veterans memorials at the National Mall in Washington, construction of the World War II Memorial is scheduled to begin by Veterans Day 2000.

There is just one problem.

The American Battle Monuments Commission — a federal agency that operates U.S. military cemeteries and monuments worldwide — stil needs about $30 million in private contributions before the $100 million memorial can be built.

To help the commission come up with the money, Wal-Mart stores nationwide will hold a special fund drive from Veterans Day to Memorial Day 2000. Some local Wal-Mart stores, however, have already begun accepting donations.

Buddy Kolb, store manager of Wal-Mart No. 680 in Greeneville, has set up an empty aquarium with memorial information at the entrance of his store for patrons who wish to make monetary contributions. During the first week, Kolb said the store raised more than $200.

"Wal-Mart associates see this as a real worthwhile thing," he said. "Most of us are very surprised that our country doesn't have a World War II memorial. It's hard to believe that we have gone 54 years without a memorial to World War II veterans, and Wal-Mart is taking a major role in raising funds for the memorial. Patrons can drop money into the aquarium, and we may also set up canisters at the registers so people can drop in some change or bills."

Kolb said Wal-Mart associates are planning other community activities to help raise funds for the memorial.

"Some local schoolchildren will be coloring paper United States flags, and we will offer those to the public for a donation, whether they want to give a nickel or $100 in memory of World War II veterans," he said. "We'll post those flags up in the store, similar to the Angel Tree program."

In 1993, Congress passed legislation authorizing the building of a national World War II memorial in Washington or its immediate environs. The authorizing legislation was signed into law by the president on May 25, 1993.

According to Betsy Glick, the memorial's director of communications, the memorial will honor 16 million people who served in the United States Armed Forces during World War II, the 406,000 who died and the millions who supported the war effort from home.

"And the memorial should inspire future generations of Americans by deepening their appeciation of what that generation accomplished in securing freedom and democracy," she said.

Since the release of Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan and Terrence Mallick's The Thin Red Line in 1998, Glick said the memorial fund has steadily increased.

"With those new World War II movies, it seems as if Americans of all ages are reliving the courage and sacrifice of this special generation," she said. "We have been running a television commercial about the memorial with Tom Hanks, who was one of the lead characters in Saving Private Ryan. He has helped us out a lot since he agreed to be our national spokesman."

Information about the memorial, including registry and donation forms, can be obtained by visiting the World War II Memorial Web site at www.wwiimemorial.com or by calling customer service at 1-800-639-4992.

Tax-deductible donations may also be sent to: World War II Memorial Fund, American Battle Monuments Commission, P.O. Box 96766, Washington, D.C. 20090-6766.

Story Copyright © 1999-2004 by Vincent Z. Whaley and the Johnson City Press,
204 W. Main St., Johnson City, Tennessee 37605, 423.929.3111.
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