After more than 20 years of design, planning and development, a tribute and memorial to one of Denison’s own is approaching completion. After seeing delays this spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial in Washington D.C. is scheduled to open to the public next month.
The monument to the former U.S. president and supreme commander of allied forces in Europe during World War II, will include aspects of all stages of his life including information on his origins in Texoma.
"We have worked hard over the last six years to ensure that Denison has been a part of this since this is where it all began and the end result now is a very strong tie to all parts of the Eisenhower story," Dwight D. Eisenhower Commission Texas Ambassador Howard Day said.
The monument, which is the seventh presidential monument in Washington D.C., will highlight Eisenhower’s childhood in Abilene, Kansas, his war service, and his eventual election as the 34th President of the United States. The memorial was designed by architect Frank Gehry and is situated in a four-acre park adjacent to the National Mall.
"Denison is no. 1 on his timeline because this is where he was born and in working with our local leaders and with the commission we were able to ensure that Denison is place first and foremost on the e-memorial," Day said. "The very first timeline item visitors to the e-memorial will see is his humble beginnings in Denison, Texas when his parents came down to have his dad work on the railroad and wipe the steam engines."
The monument will feature three bronze statues of Eisenhower’s life, including one based on a photo of Eisenhower with the troops immediately prior to the Normandy invasions.
The site will also feature a steel tapestry which depicts the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc on the Normandy coastline.
Despite considering Abilene his childhood home, Eisenhower was born in Denison in 1890 in a small white house built near the railroad where his father worked.
Eisenhower graduated from West Point Military Academy in 1915 and served during both world wars. During WWII, he oversaw allied efforts in Europe, including the invasion of Normandy — a turning point in the war.
Following the war, Eisenhower served as military governor of the American zone in occupied Germany and then went on to serve as Army Chief of Staff and the first NATO supreme commander.
Eisenhower was courted by both the Republican and Democratic parties as a possible presidential candidate. He ultimately ran as a Republican candidate in 1952 and won the election.
For Day, work on bringing a memorial to the former president into reality started six years ago when he was named as an ambassador. In those six years, great progress was made, including getting designs finalized, and construction completed.
"Some days it feels like things moved very quickly and other days it felt like we were in committee meetings for days on end, but at the end of the day, the short six years I have been involved has been an exciting ride, and an incredible experience to see behind the scenes as a national monument has been built," he said.
Day said he feels the project is important as it pays honor to Eisenhower not only for his efforts during the war, but also his contributions to American society that can still be felt today due to his forward-thinking leadership.
"To rise to the level of president of the united states is itself a rare accomplishment," Day said. "But if we look at the totality of Eisenhower’s life ... and all he has accomplished, he truly helped shape America as we know it today. So I think it is important as Americans for us to look at the model he has left for us and use it as a benchmark for future generations."
Day said that he believes that Denison representatives will be at the monument for its opening on September 17. Mayor Janet Gott said the city hopes to participate in any way it can with the current travel restrictions in place due to the pandemic.
"The City of Denison is proud to be an important part of the Eisenhower story, serving as the birthplace of the nation’s 34th President," Gott said. "The pandemic has opened up a unique opportunity for everyone to participate as the dedication program will be streamed online. We encourage all members of the community to watch this historic dedication that will shed light on Denison’s part of the Eisenhower story."
Michael Hutchins is the local government reporter for the Herald Democrat. He can be reached at email@example.com.