Supporters of proposed Arlington World War II memorial make their case for keeping it downtown

Posted Monday, Jul. 08, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Supporters of a proposed World War II memorial are rallying around the project and remain firm in their belief that it should be placed at the downtown library.

The leaders of the Arlington Veterans Park Foundation, the president of the University of Texas at Arlington Military Alumni and the chairman of the city’s Landmark Preservation Commission said in letters to the City Council that the memorial should be in the central business district.

“It is critically important to us that this memorial be located in the downtown area for greatest exposure,” Allan Garonzik, president of the UTA Military Alumni, said in a June 13 letter to the council.

The memorial’s placement near the Central Library, where the Arlington Historical Society has recommended building it to honor those killed during the war, would be more symbolic because of its proximity to the university, he said.

“It should be noted that the monuments will contain an inscription describing the community during WW II, including the historic role of North Texas Agricultural College and the more than 5,000 former students who served in WW II,” he wrote. The college is now UT Arlington.

The proposed memorial would include two granite monument structures, one inscribed with the names of the fallen veterans, the other describing the role of the city and university in the war effort. It would be located near the existing statue of Medal of Honor recipient Col. Neel Kearby on the library’s west lawn.

The city also has been involved in a prolonged study of the library. Officials are determining whether it would be more cost-effective to renovate, add a third floor or completely rebuild the 40-year-old building.

Councilwoman Sheri Capehart proposed at a May 21 work session that grant money already approved for the project from the Historic Preservation Fund be held until the future of the downtown library is decided. At the June 18 meeting, however, she said she was not in favor of putting the monument at the library.

“We have a memorial out at Veterans Park — a park that’s named for veterans — and I think all memorials for all the veterans should be located there,” said Capehart. “I want everybody to receive equal recognition, and I think if you move it away from Veterans Park, that says this group was more special than another group. And I firmly do not agree with that.”

But Albert Ross, president of Arlington Veterans Park Foundation, in a June 14 letter to the council, said that he and foundation Director Clete McAlister believe that the project “belongs somewhere in the downtown/UTA area rather than out in Veterans’ Park.”

“It is a pair of granite historical markers indicating the remarkable role Arlington and NTAC played during that important time,” McAlister said in an interview. “These men left town from the train station in downtown Arlington, and it was there that their families met the caskets as they returned home.”

McAlister said he thought the small markers would not discourage donations or detract from future projects in Veterans Park.

Ron Reber, chairman of the Landmark Preservation Commission, wrote that the monument would be an important addition to the varied attractions in the area and would draw more tourists to downtown.

UTA associate professor Allan Saxe wrote, “More than sixty-six years later it is time to remember and honor our WWII wartime community. These memorials symbolically located in downtown Arlington and near UTA, will serve as testimony that we have not forgotten the sacrifices of those that preceded us.”

Volunteers have secured pledges from private donors for around $30,000 of the nearly $60,000 needed for the project, and a $16,400 grant application for money from the Arlington Preservation Fund was approved earlier this year.

Geraldine Mills, executive director of the historical society, said supporters who have pledged money for a downtown location would withdraw support if another site is chosen.

Another element of the project is a documentary the historical society is working on with the film department at the UTA about the World War II era in Arlington. It will portray the veterans’ backgrounds using interviews, photographs and other artifacts.

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