Congressional Record Statement of Senator Daniel K. Akaka
Mr. President, I am pleased to share a report with our colleagues, which I received last month from the Departments of the Army and Veterans Affairs. The report addresses the Army's and VA's plans for repairing and preserving the Tomb Monument at the Tomb of the Unknowns . As many of our colleagues may know and appreciate, the Tomb is a national monument of great historical significance, especially to our Nation's veterans, located on the hallowed ground of Arlington National Cemetery.
The Tomb Monument, which sits above the tombs for the unknowns from World War I, World War II, and the Korean conflict, has developed several cracks along the natural faults in the marble. For some time, there has been discussion of possibly replacing the original monument. However, prior to taking this option, I wanted to ensure that at the very least decisionmakers considered options for preserving, rather than replacing the monument. While I understand the concerns about the cracks in the Tomb Monument, I along with many others believe that our national monuments are not diminished by signs of their age. Many of our most treasured American symbols, from the Liberty Bell to the Star-Spangled Banner, are physically worn and weathered. This does not diminish their value or significance. I would argue that the same is true for the Tomb of the Unknowns .
It is our Nation's tradition to preserve our historic national symbols. We must protect them from the notion that they can be easily discarded or replaced. With those concerns in mind, my colleague from Virginia, Senator Webb, and I successfully added language requiring a report on plans for the Tomb Monument to last year's National Defense Authorization Act. The joint report acknowledges that replacement of the Tomb Monument could have a negative impact on the historic significance of the Tomb of the Unknowns .
I am pleased that the joint report outlined several alternatives to replacing the Tomb Monument. I urge the Departments, in their respective capacities, to pursue the best means of preserving the Tomb Monument for future generations of veterans and Americans. While the Departments may have to consider partial or full replacement of the Tomb Monument at some future date, at this time there are still a number of other options which should be pursued.
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that letters and the Executive Summary of the report be printed in the Record.
September 16, 2008