Women's Memorial Reaches Halfway Point
By Master Sgt. Stephen Barrett, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 7, 1997 Construction of the Women in Military Service to America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., has passed the halfway point, the builders said recently.
Thanks to a moderate winter, officials with Lehrer McGovern and Bovis, Inc., said, the construction remains on schedule.
Michelle Stuckey, a spokeswoman with the construction consulting firm, said if the weather holds, they should complete construction and landscaping work this summer. That would give officials of the the memorial foundation about three months to furnish offices, set up museum displays and prepare for dedication ceremonies now set for Oct. 18.
The women's memorial project converts Arlington National Cemetery's 75-year-old main entrance gate into a shrine honoring the nation's 1.8 million service women and veterans. Designed by Weiss-Manfredi Architects of New York, the memorial will house a museum, 196-seat auditorium, a Hall of Honor and an education center on women's military history. It will also house a computerized military women's registry, created to allow military women to showcase their contributions to military service.
Although the memorial's groundbreaking occurred in June 1995, construction did not begin until January 1996. Since then, construction workers have excavated nearly 3,500 truckloads of soil from behind the gate and built the walls that will house the museum.
Workers will place nearly 250 tons of Colorado Yule marble, which will cover 12,000 square feet of walls inside the memorial.
The memorial's observation deck is also near completion. Partially built stairwells lead from the roof to just above the museum's main chamber. Contractors are also mounting frames that will eventually hold large etched glass panels. These panels will contain engraved quotations by or about famous military women. Sunlight will shine through those panels and reflect the quotations onto the marble walls inside.
Stuckey said the memorial's front wall restoration will occur after they complete most of the inside construction. She said the process will include sandblasting the gate's old, semicircular facade.
Besides the gate renovation, the next nine months will see construction of the memorial's fountain, plaza and reflecting pool. Four new stairwells will pass through the museum to the memorial's roof and provide visitors with a view of the cemetery, the Lincoln Memorial and the glass tablets.
The construction site is close to cemetery burial areas. "One of the major concerns was that we didn't disturb any grave sites," said Stuckey, "We were very careful that we stayed within our bounds."
While construction continues, foundation officials are still campaigning to open the museum debt-free. Spokeswoman Molly Whalen said the foundation still needs to raise about $6 million -- money needed to cover the costs of furnishing the museum and equipping the memorial's education center.
Commemorative coin sales, a federal restoration grant and donations from foreign governments, civic groups and corporate sponsors are paying most of the costs. The foundation hopes to continue earning corporate funds and raising money through individual and group donations.
The foundation is also looking to register more service women into the museum's computerized memorial register. The data base will contain names, photos and brief biographical sketches of women who served in the armed forces, uniformed Public Health Service members and those in service auxiliaries.
It was also include a section on "They Also Served," honoring women in the Red Cross, United Services Organization and Special Services.
For information on the memorial, call (800) 222-2294 or write to:
The Women's Memorial
Washington, D.C. 20042-0560.