Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The #ABMC should provide free WiFi at America's #WWI cemeteries

Here's what might sound like a wacky idea, but the American Battle Monuments Commission should provide free WiFi at the American WWI cemeteries. Why does anyone need WiFi you ask?

Well, as you wander among the graves some will catch your eye. Maybe it's the name – same as a family member or a friend – or maybe it's the state he's from or maybe it's the fact he was awarded the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross or the Croix de Guerre (as many Americans were) and you want to do a quick Google search.

Why shouldn't visitors to the cemetery be able to do that? I think they should be encouraged to do so because otherwise the sea of white crosses is just that – a sea of white crosses. And believe me, when you're at the Meuse-Argonne Cemetery the 14,000 white crosses and occasional Star of David are overwhelming. Each cross represents an individual, a person with their own story and those individual stories are what people connect with, not really the broad sweep of a battle.

Providing WiFi will afford American visitors (& others) the opportunity to learn a little more about one (or more) of those who is (are) buried there. That will help personalize the cemeteries, lessen the "sea of white crosses" effect. And, just in case someone thinks adding WiFi to the cemeteries would be disrespectful I ask you to remember:
  1. Providing free WiFi should be near enough to cost-free and unobtrusive. The infrastructure should be all but invisible.
  2. The dead won't mind. In fact, if it helps people to learn about them as people I think that if they could speak they'd be pleased.
  3. Anyone with access to a 4G connection can access Google at the cemeteries already, but that probably includes no Americans or if it does it includes only those for whom cost of downloading data while overseas is no issue.
So, it may be an odd suggestion, but free WiFi will enable Americans (and others) to learn more and, thus, to honor more fully those who are buried in America's war cemeteries.