April 16 (UPI) -- The National World War I Memorial honoring fallen troops was dedicated Friday in Washington, D.C.
The memorial, part of the U.S. Park Service, comes 102 years after the parting shots of the conflict and is dedicated to the more than 117,000 American soldiers who died in the war.
Terry W. Hamby, chairman of the WWI Centennial Commission, said the United States finally has a memorial to the 4.7 million Americans who served in the war from 1914 to 1918.
"This is America's memorial, and you each can take great pride that you built it," Hamby said at the commemoration. "The doughboys we are honoring today were the best of their generation. Their average age was 24."
The National World War I Memorial is located in Pershing Park. The design features soldiers on a 65-foot-long horizontal panel. The memorial includes interactive historical content about the war and its participants, as well as the impact that war had worldwide. A statue of Gen. John J. Pershing has been in the area since 1981.
In addition to preserving the existing historical significance of the Pershing sculpture, other elements will later be incorporated to revamp the square's look.
The National World War I Memorial also tells the story of African-American involvement.
"African Americans served in separate units, women's suffrage was still at its height, Native Americans served, and they weren't considered to be American citizens at the time," American Legion National Commander Bill Oxford said.
Friday's ceremony included musical performances by the U.S. Army Band, the U.A. Air Force Band, Lee Greenwood and others. It was streamed online on with a large screen set up for viewing at Freedom Plaza. The 94th Fighter Squadron conducted an overflight.
The First Colors ceremony was hosted by actor Gary Sinise and included appearances by U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., who worked to bring about the memorial.
A memorial on the National Mall honors Washington, D.C., soldiers who fought and died in World War I, but calls for a national marker have persisted for years.
Groundbreaking for the national memorial was held in 2017. At the time, the memorial was projected to cost by $50 million, a quarter of which had been collected through private donations, and be completed in 2018.