By Jefferson Weaver
2018 marks the centennial of the end of First World War, and volunteers with the Veterans Park of America hope to help remind Americans of the sacrifices made by a large number of Columbus residents who fought in that conflict.
Angela Norris of the Park said that WWI is often forgotten, since the last local veteran of the conflict passed away decades ago.
“We had a huge number of men who served in the First World War,” she said. “They have a place in our park just like any other veteran.”
The Veterans Park, located in New Hope, is being funded entirely by donations. The park will eventually feature memorials to all service branches and conflicts, static displays, a museum and a memorial hall where organizers hope to display photos of every local veteran of every American conflict.
Although WWI began in 1914, America didn’t officially become involved until 1917, and the war ended Nov. 11, 1918. The war was a turning point in military tactics and technology – tactics and maneuvers were holdovers from the era of muzzle-loading muskets, while massed heavy artillery, machine guns, repeating rifles and deadly gas were used by both sides of the conflict.
According to the North Carolina World War One Project, the state sent 86,547 men to the battlefields of Europe. Of those, 624 died in combat, 204 died of wounds sustained in battle, and 3,655 received serious and sometimes disabling injuries. Even more Tar Heel troops died at home going to or returning home from the war, due to the influenza outbreak. American casualties, like those of all combatants, were shocking: in the first five months of their deployment, more Americans were killed in combat than during the entire Vietnam conflict.
The park organization is searching for photos, documents, and artifacts of WWI veterans to display during two special events commemorating the centennial of Armistice Day, Nov. 11.
On Nov. 10, the park will host a dinner and dance at the Spillway with Blackwater Rhythm and Blues Band. On Nov. 11 – better known as Veterans Day –a parade, wreath laying and other events will be held in downtown Whiteville.
“We want to make this a really special time,” Norris said. “We only have one chance to celebrate a one hundredth anniversary.”
For more information, call 840.3848.