Remember World War I Veterans Memorials

Visitors in May 1943. The WWI tomb of the Unknown Soldier was completed in 1922, after four unknown American GIs were returned from cemeteries in France.
Visitors in May 1943. The WWI tomb of the Unknown Soldier was completed in 1922, after four unknown American GIs were returned from cemeteries in France. | Source

Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.

— Tomb of the Unkown Soldier of WWI

Forgotten Soldiers of WWI

It is the 2010s and many of our World War I memorials are crumbling into disrepair, while we despair that the last surviving WWI veteran died in 2012.America cannot turn her back on accurate history and the lives these people sacrificed for the rest of us in that generation as well as future generations.

It was not the War to End All Wars as predicted, but the armed forces tried to make it so. Let us remember that.

The US The National Trust for Historic Preservation found a big fight awaiting them when they moved to repair the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of WWI in Arlington National Cemetery. This has been held up to the public as an almost sacred site in the past. What should have been an easy cost appropriation escalated into a battle over two years long, while the monument continued to crack and decay.

The Order of the First World War is an American genealogical society that tracks veterans as an aspect of researching ancestry. They also track and announce related events.

Where Are the Unknowns?

One was long unable to find the Tomb of the Unknowns on a Google Map, the closest marked monument in the park being the Space Shuttle Challenger (1986). In the mid 2010s, this omission was rectified.

The Unknowns of at least four wars that include WWI are near the Memorial Amphitheater and while newer tragedies like Challenger and Columbia (2003) are more "popular" to visitors, we should not forget the deaths given for us and our country in WWI, the Spanish American War, the American Civil War, the Revolutionary War, and all the wars in which Americans have fought and nurses and doctors have died. I had family members in all of those wars and more - how about

The Unknown Soldiers that the Sentinels guard include soldiers who died in WWI, WWII, Korea and Viet Nam.

"Memorial Amphitheater"

A Generation Of Lost Veterans

Florence Green, who served in an armed forces auxiliary as a waitress at an air base in England died in 2012 at age 110. Serving in the Women's Royal Air Force, she was the last known surviving veteran of World War I.

Commitment To Honor the Unknowns

I viewed a documentary a few years ago about the long and strict training required of the volunteers that become the guard Sentinels of the Tomb of the Unknowns. The Sentinels work in shifts to watch over the tomb 24/7/365 in all weather. They are members of Company E of the 3rd US Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), headquartered at Fort Myer, Virginia adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery, just west of Washington DC.

The Unknown Soldiers that the Sentinels guard include soldiers who died in WWI, WWII, Korea and Viet Nam.

The candidates for Sentinel must meet a number of US Army requirements, but the first is to completely memorize seven full pages of history of Arlington National Cemetery and recite it word for word, yet not sound as if they are giving a canned recitation. By the end of their training, they know the location of each and every grave in the park - a feat almost as complex and overwhelming as the Black Cabs drivers' requirements to know all the streets and alleys of London, UK.

Arlington National Cemetery in winter.
Arlington National Cemetery in winter. | Source

Sentinels Are Not Ordinary

Between February 1958 through Memorial Day 2013 - for over 55 years - only 400 individuals have passed the tests to receive the Tomb of the Unknowns Sentinel Temporary Badge.

These candidates must serve successfully for nine months thereafter in order to earn a Permanent Badge. Further, an elaborate ceremony at the change of each 30-minute summer shift or 60-minute winter shift is required and during those 30 or 60 minutes, Sentinels do not stand still, but walk a prescribed route at the consistent rate of 90 steps per minute. This is required to be done in any weather on any day or night.

If Company E Sentinels can commit to honoring our unknown warriors who died for us in this difficult and sacrificial way, then we can ask our government leaders to preserve the tombs and other official Historical National Places that were built to honor our men and women who died in war. This is not too much to ask. Serving as a Sentinel at a crumbling monument is a sad vision.

Dishonor Should Not Be Tolerated

In October 2012, two women visited the Tomb of the Unknowns for a joke during an outing. One posed in front of the WWI Tomb while shouting at the sign that requested silence from visitors, and raising her middle finger in vile disrespect.

The other woman snapped the photo and together, the women posted the rude photo on the Internet, angered veterans, and were suspended from their jobs with a nonprofit organization.

The rules of Arlington National Cemetery prohibit a list of unwanted behaviors and two such rules cover those of the photo makers above. A visitor is in violation if any:

  • (ii) Yells, utters loud and boisterous language or makes other unreasonably loud noise;
  • (iv) Utters to any person present abusive, insulting, profane, indecent or otherwise provocative language or gesture that by its very utterance tends to incite an immediate breach of the peace

Rather than a suspension or firing, my opinion is that the two women should receive a fine and short jail sentence - or perhaps compulsory time in the US Army or volunteering among the armed services, particularly our Wounded Warriors.

Greensboro, North Carolina

show route and directions
A markerGreensboro World War I Memorial Stadium -
World War Memorial Stadium, 510 Yanceyville Street, Greensboro, NC 27405, USA
[get directions]

B markerCarolina Field of Honor, 9652 East Mountain St. Kernersville, NC 27284 -
9652 East Mountain Street, Kernersville, NC 27284, USA
[get directions]

The Greensboro, North Carolina WWI Memorial Stadium is in disrepair.

Rebuild and Remember or Tear Down and Forget?

Greensboro, North Carolina is the headquarters of long-time company Vicks VapoRub as well as the International Civil Rights Center and Museum. The latter facility pegs Greensboro as a memorial appreciating kind of town.

For Memorial Day, the city hosts ceremonies, parades, and speeches in its local parks on Sunday and Monday, including presentations from local veterans groups. In 2013, special commemorations go to Korean War veterans in the 60th year after the conflict ended in 1953. Memorial Day 2013 also saw the raising of a public plaque to African American soldiers who died in WWII. A large commemoration ceremony for all veterans at large Carolina Field of Honor, still under construction (See map above).

No mention in Greensboro news was made about the local WWI Memorial Stadium, which is in disrepair. It was completed in 1927 and has appeared in a few baseball movies. An ongoing argument between residents and city official involves restoring the historic structure vs. replacing it with a building that might be used for something else - hence, no more Memorial.

Wakefield Memorial Building, Already Demolished

A markerWakefield Twp Hall, Wakefield, Michigan -
Wakefield Twp Hall, Ottawa National Forest, Thomaston, Wakefield, MI 49968, USA
[get directions]

The Wakefield Memorial Building for WWI soldiers was originally built in 1924, but sold and demolished when the city could no longer afford maintenance during the last part of the Great Recession.

Upper Peninsula Memorial

Wakefield is traditionally a coal mining town in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, located just east of the state line. The Wakefield Memorial Building for WWI soldiers was originally built in 1924 and was a large multi-use structure. It had a view of a lake and that must have been Lake Gogibec off Routes 28 and 64, located in its own state park.

The townspeople found that their coal money economy could not support the Memorial, so town officials sold it. It stood until 2010, when it was finally demolished. City officials had talked about putting up a new Memorial, along with a new City Hall and public library, but nothing has come of those talks. For now, the town has a large, grassy lawn to enjoy.

Waikiki Natatorium, Honolulu, Hawaii

A markerNatatorium is next to Diamond Head -
Diamond Head, Honolulu, HI 96815, USA
[get directions]

The World War I Memorial Natatorium in Waikiki is a salt-water swimming pool complex that commemorates 10,000 Hawaiians that fought in WWI. It was once used for Olympic training.

Commeorations at Waikiki Natatorium

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Natatorium bleachers. Memorial Day 2013Bill Smith's 1948 Olympic Gold Medal in the men's 400 meter free style. He trained in this natatorium.Memorial Day 2013.Memorial Day 2013Young women diving in the long ago past.Waikiki and the NatatoriumMemorial Day 2011; dance called "Surround Me With Love."
Natatorium bleachers.
Natatorium bleachers. | Source
Memorial Day 2013
Memorial Day 2013 | Source
Bill Smith's 1948 Olympic Gold Medal in the men's 400 meter free style. He trained in this natatorium.
Bill Smith's 1948 Olympic Gold Medal in the men's 400 meter free style. He trained in this natatorium. | Source
Memorial Day 2013.
Memorial Day 2013. | Source
Memorial Day 2013
Memorial Day 2013 | Source
Young women diving in the long ago past.
Young women diving in the long ago past. | Source
Waikiki and the Natatorium
Waikiki and the Natatorium | Source
Memorial Day 2011; dance called "Surround Me With Love."
Memorial Day 2011; dance called "Surround Me With Love." | Source

How Can We Let Honolulu Memorials Fall Apart?

The World War I Memorial Natatorium is a salt-water swimming pool complex that commemorates 10,000 Hawaiians that fought in WWI.

Many groups of swimmers trained in this facility on the beach at Waikiki, including the 1948 Summer Olympic Gold Medalist Bill Smith (see photos above).

It has been closed for so long that the public has nearly forgotten why it was built, but it is on the National Register of Historic Places. it is falling apart, but should be either preserved or replaced. The parking lot and adjacent grassy areas are still used for Memorial Day, Veteran's Day and some other holidays (see photos above).

Even thought the WWI Memorial is a historic landmark in America, county officials feel that the public might like to have a new beach and attractions, rather than a restored memorial. No one seems to remember WWI anymore, especially with the attack on Pearl Harbor in WWII overshadowing it.

Opening of the Waikiki Natatorium in 1927 at the foot of Diamond Head.
Opening of the Waikiki Natatorium in 1927 at the foot of Diamond Head. | Source

© 2013 Patty Inglish

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Comments 6 comments

Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

I cannot even understand the thought process of tearing down such memorials, what a disgrace to do such!!! Thanks for the eye-opener of a hub here.

We should always honor all of our war veterans.

Voted up +++ and sharing

God bless, Faith Reaper


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 3 years ago from North America Author

Thanks very much for commenting, Faith Reaper. I want future generations to remember all our warriors, even if they are dead long ago.


Maren Morgan M-T profile image

Maren Morgan M-T 3 years ago from Pennsylvania

Patty, I am very "possessed" by WWI. I know it is not in the consciousness of the American public. I have 2 guesses why it is not -- very few movies and no TV series (that I know) where made of the Great War. Also, it was not a technology war. Forces still had cavalry and mules. Not "appealing" to techno-Americans. These do not excuse lack of respect for the fallen, but they may explain it....


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 3 years ago from North America Author

Thanks for those insigts, Maren Morgan M-T. They do make rational explanations. I can't think of any TV series about the war, either.


DDE profile image

DDE 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

A moment of many memories


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 15 months ago from North America Author

Upcoming Veterans Day in November reminds me that all of our WWI Veterans have now died, but some of their WWI memorials are in disrepair and need mending. We need to repair and maintain the monuments to prevent their being pulled down and the commitment to honor our veterans' service lost.

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