The American flag was raised over the National World War I Memorial in Washington, D.C.'s Pershing Park for the first time Friday morning during its First Colors Ceremony.
"Let's remember all that was sacrificed, all that was sanctified by our proud, brave Americans who served in World War I," President Joe Biden said during pre-recorded remarks. "The commitment and valor of the American women and men who stepped up to serve, whether here at home, or on the front lines in Europe was the same spirit that has always defined American service members."
The flag raised during the ceremony also flew over D.C. on April 6, 2017, recognizing the 100th anniversary of U.S. involvement in World War I. The commemorative flag also flew over several American battlefield cemeteries in Europe, according to a news release from the World War I Centennial Commission.
Terry Hamby, a Vietnam veteran who spent 26 years in various military services, told Military.com that serving as chairman of the World War I Centennial Commission was "a humbling experience."
"Somewhere along the way … we forgot 4.7 million Americans that sacrificed so much for our generation today," he said. "It became a mission for all of us to make sure that all those World War I veterans and their families were recognized in their sacred place."
Hamby knew that his grandfather served during WWI, but said he learned more recently that his great-uncle was also killed during the war.
"And then from that point forward, it was really personal. My family was one of those 116,516 people that gave the ultimate sacrifice," he said.
Architect and lead designer Joe Weishaar told Military.com that he was inspired to submit a design after looking through WWI photos in the National Archives.
"Looking at those photos, the thing that struck me was that everybody in them was 20 to 25 years old. And at the time, I was 24 or 25, when I submitted the design, and so it resonated with me," Weishaar said. "I don't have any relatives who were in the war, but just to see people my age, if I had been alive 100 years ago, that would have been me."
His design was inspired by the need to tell the soldiers' stories to younger generations, he said.
"It's been 101 years since the end of World War I; there are no living veterans. The only way that we can remember them is by telling stories," Weishaar explained.
Hamby said he hopes that the memorial will be a place to learn about and reflect on our history.
"I'm looking forward to America seeing it. I'm looking forward to America coming here and seeing a 21st century memorial," he added. "I'm interested in them coming here … to learn more about what this generation did for us today. … Even though we were the greatest country in the world, we still made mistakes. And it was in that period that we started correcting them."