A cen­tury later, state truly honors WWI fallen

The Arizona Republic - - Valley & State - Reach Roberts at lau­rie.roberts@ ari­zonare­pub­lic.com.

Take up our quar­rel with the foe: To you from fail­ing hands we throw The torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die We shall not sleep, though pop­pies grow

In Flan­ders fields. —

In Ari­zona, we broke the faith. For years, our me­mo­rial to World War I has been ... how shall I say it? ... an ab­so­lute dis­grace.

For years, it has stood there across from the state Capi­tol at Wes­ley Bolin Me­mo­rial Plaza, for­lorn and for­got­ten. A thief long ago made off with the plaque that once adorned this 6-foot gran­ite marker, leav­ing two stark holes where a bronze medal­lion once was mounted.

It’s been that way for a decade, or per­haps longer.

For a decade, or per­haps longer, Ari­zona’s me­mo­rial to World War I has stood mostly as a mon­u­ment to the fact that we haven’t kept the faith. Not only has this 50-year-old me­mo­rial fallen into dis­re­pair, there’s just not much to it.

There is noth­ing there to tell the story of the war that marked the first real test of Amer­ica’s strength as a world power. Noth­ing to honor the 4 mil­lion Amer­i­cans who served or the 116,516 Amer­i­can sol­diers who fought and died “over there,” in­clud­ing 321 Ari­zo­nans killed in ac­tion.

There was talk in 2009 about fix­ing up the me­mo­rial and adding to it, but noth­ing came of it.

Un­til now.

This week­end, on the 100th an­niver­sary of the end of World War I, Ari­zona will at long last be ready once again to honor those long-ago war­riors.

This, thanks in large part to Ari­zona’s vet­er­ans.

They, bet­ter than any­one, un­der­stand the need to never for­get. And so they teamed with the state de­part­ments of Ad­min­is­tra­tion and Vet­er­ans Ser­vices to fi­nally fix and up­grade our dis­grace of a mon­u­ment.

“Re­mem­ber­ing is part of the hon­or­ing process,” David Lucier, who served as a Green Beret in Viet­nam and now is pres­i­dent of the Ari­zona Vet­er­ans and Mil­i­tary Lead­er­ship Al­liance, told me. “There’s no­body left in that gen­er­a­tion to re­mem­ber. So we have to do it for them.”

By Sun­day, an en­larged replica of the orig­i­nal bronze medal­lion — fea­tur­ing the poppy that came to sym­bol­ize the war and remembrance — will be added to the mon­u­ment. And on ei­ther side, brass plaques that even­tu­ally will sit on gran­ite pedestals: one telling the story of World War I, an­other with poet John McCrae’s haunting words, writ­ten so long ago be­side a Bel­gian bat­tle­field.

In Flan­ders fields, he wrote: the pop­pies blow Be­tween the crosses, row on row, That mark our place; and in the sky The larks, still bravely singing, fly Scarce heard amid the guns be­low. We are the Dead. Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sun­set glow, Loved and were loved, and now we lie In Flan­ders fields ... A hun­dred years ago Sun­day, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, Amer­ica’s “War to End All Wars” was over.

Ari­zona’s me­mo­rial to the Great War will be reded­i­cated at a pub­lic cer­e­mony at 11 a.m. Sun­day, Vet­er­ans Day. Or, as it once was known, Armistice Day. Come and keep the faith. “Maybe,” Lucier said, “we’ll have a big turnout.” The me­mo­rial is be­ing re­stored and up­graded thanks to a grant from the World War I Cen­ten­nial Com­mis­sion’s 100 Cities/100 Memo­ri­als project. The Uni­fied Ari­zona Vet­er­ans and its mem­bers raised ad­di­tional funds. The Ari­zona Vet­er­ans and Mil­i­tary Lead­er­ship Al­liance and the Ari­zona Mil­i­tary His­tory Mu­seum de­signed the ex­pan­sion el­e­ments, and the con­struc­tion costs were a gift from the Sundt Corp. and Sundt Foun­da­tion.

Lau­rie Roberts Colum­nist Ari­zona Repub­lic USA TO­DAY NET­WORK


Ari­zona's World War I me­mo­rial is at long last be­ing re­paired and up­graded to mark the 100th an­niver­sary of the con­flict.

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