WWII memorial dedicated today, later and costlier than planned
By Tom Baldwin • GANNETT STATE BUREAU
Published: Tuesday November 11, 2008
Asbury Park Press
TRENTON — The World War II monument that New Jersey's elder warriors will salute at its dedication ceremony today had spent years lost in Trenton fog, at a moment when many aging veterans were answering fewer and fewer reveilles.
"It almost didn't happen," said Jack McGreevey, chairman of the committee that drove the campaign to have the long-delayed World War II monument constructed in a small park across West State Street from the front of the Statehouse.
"There was a changing of the guard," said Haddonfield lawyer Eric Spevak, who is not a veteran but helped stage fund-raising events for today's moment.
The memorial had been discussed for years, under the long shadow of the fact two major wars — Korea and Vietnam — ensued after V-J Day. For years the lone New Jersey touchstone vaguely dedicated to the Second World War — honoring its fallen — was the Delaware Memorial Bridge connecting South Jersey to Delaware.
Following his election in 2001, then-Gov. James E. McGreevey gave the idea a nudge when he appointed a commission led by his Marine father, Jack, and provided $2 million in state funds.
But then McGreevey resigned as governor, and state budget woes continued as the gubernatorial baton moved from Senate President Richard J. Codey to Corzine, himself a Marine veteran.
Meanwhile, the initial estimated cost for the memorial of $4.5 million rose to today's $7.5 million. Army Chief Warrant Officer Patrick Daugherty, spokesman for the state Department of Military and Veterans' Affairs, when the initial plan back in 2000 called for the monument to use concrete.
"Over time the project kind of slowed down. It kind of went away. Then it came back with Gov. Corzine," said Daugherty, noting that the state by then decided the cement envisioned beforehand lacked, as soldiers say, "stripes."
"They changed the plans to granite," said Daugherty, who added that by then most all other costs had also risen.
State Treasury spokesman Tom Bell said Monday the state has put in $3.5 million and the veterans secured the rest.
Estimates of surviving New Jersey WWII vets vary because it's difficult to count precisely, as people relocate in and out of the state. The best the state can come up with — and it is dwindling by the day — is under 79,000, Daugherty said.
He said his office has received more than 1,000 replies from veterans who checked the Department's web site. NJ Transit said it will provide free rides to and from the event for any passengers providing Veterans Administration ID or merely a membership card for a veterans' group.
"This needs to be done before they are all dead," said Spevak.
IF YOU GO: The World War II Memorial dedication ceremony starts at 2:30 p.m. on West State Street across from the front of the Statehouse, 125 West State St., Trenton, NJ. Chairs are to be provided.
Public parking is limited around the Statehouse. Shuttle buses will be available from designated state government parking lots in the downtown area. NJ Transit is providing free bus and train rides to Trenton for veterans with ID and anyone wearing a United States military uniform.
State government is closed for Veterans Day.
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