WWI Museum President: Veterans Day Links Generations of Service

WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 06: World War II veteran Robert Levine (2nd ) poses for a photograph during a wreath laying ceremony at the National World War II Memorial on the National Mall on the 75th anniversary of D-Day, or Operation Overlord, June 06, 2019 in Washington, DC. As part …
Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Veterans Day weekend offers Americans an opportunity to reflect upon and honor military service, linking previous generations with the present, observed Matt Naylor, president and CEO of the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, MO, in a Friday interview on SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Tonight with host Rebecca Mansour and special guest host Rick Manning.

“Veterans Day weekend is one of those days where we serve a much larger purpose, paying tribute and honoring all of those who served,” said Naylor.

Mansour asked about potential difficulties among the public in connecting with World War I, given that all its veterans have since passed on.

“It’s extraordinary,” replied Naylor. “They are all gone, and at the same time, there’s this deep vein of interest in the war. We find this with our public programming, with our educational materials that are online — we have a whole lot of curriculum — and teachers are just hungry for the materials.”

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Attendance at the National World War I Museum and Memorial is indicative of public interest in understand WWI, stated Naylor.

“Hundreds of thousands of people every year — more than half a million — come to the memorial and the museum each year to pay tribute,” Naylor shared. “Even though it’s in the distant past, I think people understand that it was an uncommon experience, the first global war where America really put its stake in the ground and said, ‘We’re going to go to lands which are not our own to fight for ideals in order to preserve democracy.'”

Naylor described his museum’s purpose as two-fold. “First, remembering those who served, and we have a sacred duty in that respect, and then to help make meaning out of this catastrophe, to help draw lessons from that, and so there are many points of entry of activity into thinking about the war.”

Naylor continued, “We carry the most diverse collection of archives in the world. That’s the first thing that we seek to do, is to do the work of memory, and then be able to link it to lessons that we might learn today, to teach people about the development of technology, about the impact on medicine, on women’s rights, on civil rights, on the ways that independence movements developed, and on the impact on other wars.”

“It really helps people engage [with] and understand how World War I continues to impact our lives today,” said Naylor of WWI’s ongoing legacy. “Our mission is about remembering, interpreting, and understanding the Great War and its enduring impact, the shadow of the war that we continue to live with now, having shaped the last 100 years.”

Naylor remarked, “[The National World War I Museum and Memorial] helps us understand what the commitment is today of those who serve, and Veterans Day weekend is essential for us to better understand the price which is paid by those who serve, whether they be dead or alive, but the focus, particularly, is around those who — all — who serve, and Veterans Day weekend is a tremendous opportunity to do that.”

Naylor urged listeners to visit his museum, concluding, “Throughout the weekend, we offer free admission to our veterans and our active duty and half-price for everybody else. The National World War I Museum and Memorial is not a federal institution, it’s privately funded. It’s supported by donors and admissions. So because [of this] sponsorship, we’re able to provide it at no cost for our veterans and our active duty through Veterans Day — as well as Memorial Day — weekend.”

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Follow Robert Kraychik on Twitter @rkraychik.

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