In the United States, what is a National Memorial?

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  • Written By: Jason C. Chavis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 04 October 2019
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In the United States, a National Memorial is a facility or area designated as protected by the laws of the federal government. Every US National Memorial is dedicated to the memory of a person or event with some sort of historic importance to the people, government or military of the country. In order for something to be named as a National Memorial, it must have relevance that transcends a single state or group of people and have social significance on a nationwide scale. Locations featuring a historic person or historic event to a single area are generally selected and maintained by a state rather than the federal government. Each is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

All US National Memorials are considered property of the American people, rather than an individual or business. Nearly all these locations are overseen by the National Park Service, although some are managed by organizations dedicated to the preservation of the subject's memory. Most are free to the public or accept small donations, making them popular tourist attractions for Americans and foreign visitors alike. The cost of maintaining these monuments and memorials generally comes from taxpayer dollars.


In order to be selected as a National Memorial, the site must be approved by the United States Congress. There are 44 different monuments and locations that have been dedicated over the years. Sometimes these memorials are planned, with the government building a monument to pay homage to a person or situation. Other times, these sites are simply selected after a tragedy or nation-changing occurrence, often at the actual location of the event. While memorials are located all across the country, including one in the territory of the Northern Mariana Islands, 14 are found in the District of Columbia, the nation's capitol. Most of these are located on the National Mall, an open-air park in downtown Washington.

Many National Monuments are named after famous people in US history, such as the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. Others are dedicated to tragedies in impacting the US such as the Oklahoma city bombing and Flight 93, the plane that crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania on 11 September 2001. Still others represent military conflicts like as World War II, Korea and Vietnam.


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