Women’s memorial faces financial challenge

Younger organizers needed as original group dies off

Money is running short for the maintenance of a memorial wall at Arlington National Cemetery honoring women who served in the military. 

A rundown wall at the cemetery was transformed into the women’s memorial in the 1990s after a group of World War II women veterans raised money through garage sales and quilt raffles. The $22 million memorial took more than a decade to plan and construct.

Now, as members of the original group die off, however, there are not enough people dedicated to the wall to step in and carry on the necessary fund raising.

According to the Associated Press, the recession and a post-Sept. 11 decline in bookstore sales inside the memorial have made it harder to raise the private dollars that comprise a large share of the memorial’s $2.7 million annual budget.

Last year, the memorial almost did not open, until a $1.6 million congressional appropriation and a special fundraising drive brought in $250,000.

Memorial organizers hope the newest generation of female servicemembers will step forward. They want more of them to donate as well as participate in memorial activities and enter their stories into the memorial’s computerized registry, which includes the biographies of an estimated 241,000 of the 2.5 million women who have served in the U.S. military.

On May 1, a temporary exhibit titled “When Janey Comes Marching Home: Portraits of Women Combat Veterans” featuring portraits and oral histories of female combat troops from the recent conflicts went on display. On Memorial Day an exhibit was unveiled of the uniform, medals and other items belonging to Cpl. Jessica Ellis, 24, an Army medic from Bend, Ore., who was killed in Iraq in 2008.

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