Mini-Flood 74: War Memorial, East St. Louis

photo by Mike Matney

The War Memorial in East St. Louis had fallen into disrepair. Community saviors not only envisioned its repair, but the significance of its re-dedication.

photo by Ann Aurbach

In 2017, PFSTL Member, freelance writer and historian, Chris Naffziger discovered a dilapidated monument at Jones Park in East St. Louis.  Ever curious, Naffziger found out more about the memorial, and why it was in the state it was in. Formerly located at 25th and Lynch, the War Memorial had been hit more than once by cars and trucks. The monument was originally dedicated on November 11, 1924. 

photo by Ann Aurbach

 

photo by Jackie Johnson

 

photo by Mike Matney

Soon after, a committee was formed, spearheaded by the American Legion Post 2505, who raised funds to replace and relocate the memorial. Unfortunately, the original was too damaged to be saved. Phase One, which consisted of the sculpting, replacing and re-installation of the new monument, amongst other site improvements, was completed in May of 2018, and a year later, Photo Flood Saint Louis was invited to cover the Re-Dedication Ceremony and kick-off of Phase II.

Warren Hertfelder

 

photo by Coco Fernandez

 

photo by Mike Matney

The new memorial looks a lot like a brand new version of the original.

May 25, 2019 was a hot, summer-y day, but that didn’t stop members of the American Legion Post 2505, local East St. Louisans, and the committee from showing up.  The program order was chock full of pomp and circumstance. 

As attendees gathered, they were treated to lively accompaniments provided by the Granite City Community Band. Soon, the ceremony formally kicked off with the Presentation of the Colors by the Post Color Guard – in full uniform and gloves, despite the heat. Then, US Air Force Airman 1st Class, Amelia Szymanek, sang the National Anthem, and the boys of Boy Scout Troop 114 led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance.

photo by Ann Aurbach

 

photo by Ann Aurbach

 

photo by Joe Harrison

 

photo by Jackie Johnson

Post Chaplin Frank C Smith gave the Invocational Prayer, followed by the POW/MIA Observance – a detailed explanation of the ceremonial table and the significance of the items presented. 

Next, the Master of Ceremonies and Committee Chairman, Claude Bush invited various dignitaries to speak, including East St Louis Park District Executive Director, Irma Holliday, and Commander Emeritus, Dr. Gordon  D Bush, Lt. Colonel, US Army Retired.

AIC Szymanek then sang, “God Bless America” and was followed by the History of the WWI Memorial Monument.  Proclamations by East State Louis Mayer Robert Easter III and Illinois State Representative LaToya Greenwood were read and finally, the blue tarp was removed, revealing a beautiful, new obelisk.

photo by Coco Fernandez

 

photo by Ann Aurbach

 

photo by Mike Matney

The ceremony continued with the Roll Call and Bell Tolling – the reading of the names of those who were lost in WW I and the subsequent war actions since. Each set of names was followed by a single solemn bell. After the readings were complete, a haunting rendition of “Taps” was played by a member of the Granite City Community Band. 

The ceremony was concluded by recognizing those veterans in attendance, announcement of Phase II and the official retiring of the colors and closing benediction. Mr. Naffziger would mention in his own article (with image content contributed by PFSTL) that the ceremony program very intentionally mirrored the original dedication ceremony; a fitting testament of community pride and reverence for those soldiers who gave their lives for the defense of land and liberty.

photo by Ann Aurbach

 

photo by Jackie Johnson

It was a hot day, but it was amazing to see how proud these East St. Louisans are and what can happen when a few dedicated individuals put their minds together and make things happen. 

Phase II will finish the renovation of the area and also recognize those who have given their lives in the subsequent war actions since the original dedication. They are hoping to have that complete in 2021. 

photo by Mike Matney

 

photo by Ann Aurbach

 

photo by Warren Hertfelder

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