The fate of the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery is uncertain this Veterans Day weekend, as the Army has yet to decide whether to replace or repair the 75-year-old monument, which is marred by several large cracks.
Under consideration for years, the idea of replacing the monument has pitted conservationists, who think the original structure should be restored, against those who say that replacing the tomb is inevitable and will properly memorialize America’s fallen soldiers.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation has led a campaign against replacing the tomb, and has contacted members of Congress and asked people to write the superintendent of Arlington National Cemetery, John C. Metzler Jr.
“This is probably the most important war memorial in America,” said Richard Moe, the trust’s president. “It has served since 1932 for Americans to come and grieve for their lost loved ones, and there is absolutely no reason for it to be replaced.
“Even though there are cracks in the marble,” Mr. Moe continued, “they are purely cosmetic and can easily be repaired.”
The tomb, formerly known as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, is guarded 24 hours a day, and there are over 2,000 wreath-laying ceremonies there each year. Every president has paid a visit since the memorial was created.
“It is the Army’s position that it is imperative to act while that marble is available,” he said, referring to marble from the Colorado quarry. “We can cosmetically fix it, but eventually the cracks and the weathering are going to get so bad you won’t be able to do that without it having a shabby appearance. And that is unacceptable for the Tomb of the Unknowns.”
The report rejects leaving the cracks. Calling the monument “deeply flawed,” the report said that to repair it was not in keeping with the cemetery’s mission to “maintain the tomb monument’s condition and appearance in a manner that fully reflects the honor, dignity and reverence for those whom it represents.”
But, the report continues, “Arlington National Cemetery has determined that the tomb monument replacement will have an adverse effect upon the Tomb of the Unknowns. Removal and replacement of portions of the original monument will diminish the integrity of the monument’s design, materials, workmanship and possibly association.”
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