The iconic U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial, which faces the nation's capital, is undergoing the most extensive restoration in its more than 50-year history.

Better known as the Iwo Jima Memorial, the depiction of Marines raising a flag above the World War II battleground honors all Marines who have given their lives to defend the United States. The original design was based on news photographs and was dedicated in Arlington, Va. in 1954.

Now a $3 million dollar project is under way to help preserve the statue for another 50 years with improvements to the plaza grounds and lighting that surrounds the statue, said George Washington Memorial Parkway Acting Superintendent John James.

"There's been deterioration and some problems," James said. "We're inspecting the inside of the statue to make sure that's all OK and correcting any problems that we see."

James described the project as a general rehabilitation of the 78-foot-high memorial with the most noticeable changes being made to the cracking sidewalks that lead to the statue.

"There's nothing really being done to change the memorial itself," James said.

Hsu Development Co. of Rockville, Md. is completing most of the work under a contract with the National Park Service.

"We don't do anything on the statue, but we're cleaning the rocks that it stands on," Walter Hsu, 39, told The Washington Post.

Hsu said his company has completed dozens of high profile federal projects, including White House restorations and renovations at the Smithsonian Institution. But he said they're especially proud of this latest project.

The original memorial cost $850,000 and was built entirely with private donations, according to the park service.

Restoration work began shortly after the memorial's Nov. 10 anniversary and is expected to continue through April. The memorial remains open to visitors throughout the construction, James said.