Friday, June 9, 2023

The Monticello Doughboy's Spirit will Never Die

Nearly 500 Wayne Countians served in WWI. Almost half as many actually engaged in combat. Ten were killed in action. Thirteen died in service related events and forty-five were wounded in action. The names of those sixty-eight men are engraved on a plaque at the base of the Doughboy.

Here's the way it all started: On April 28, 1919, hundreds of people gathered at the Monticello public square for a Victory Day celebration in honor of the veterans of the great war. It was reported that the patriots of Monticello and Wayne County wanted something more, a daily reminder of the bravery of her soldiers. Three and a half years later, at the conclusion of the American Legion Armistice Day celebration cere­mony on November 16, 1922, Rose Shearer, mother of 1st Sgt Lee Shearer, the first Wayne County boy killed in action (July 19, 1918), broke ground for the new Legion Memorial Park. A month later, the Legionnaires decided to place 'The Spirit of the American Doughboy' in the new park with the pedestal bearing the names of all the men from Wayne County were killed in action, died in service or wounded in action.

At the 80th anniversary celebration of the Doughboy Memorial on April 8, 2003, Bro. Harlan Ogle said, "For 80 years the people of Monticello and Wayne County have passed this magnificent memorial. Some have passed giving no thought whatsoever to the sacrifice of the over 480 men who served their country in WWI. That is in sharp contrast to the thoughts in the hearts and minds of those who passed by it when it was first erected. Believe me when I tell you that many a mother and dad, brother and sister, and other relatives and friends have passed this memorial and shed a tear as they were reminded of the lives that were lost and the sacrifices that were made by their loved ones as they fought to preserve a free America. It is my conviction, and evidently the conviction of many of you, that the sacrifice these brave heroes made will never be forgotten."

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Doughboy Memorial being on the square in Monticello.A celebration took place on April 6th. Joyful noise was made by the Waynetonians. "Amazing speakers spoke of history and heartful memories. There was even a moment of silence followed with a 21-gun salute and Taps being played. It was a day that made folks not only proud to be a Wayne countian, but proud to be an American," according to a post on the City of Monticello Facebook page.

Now, there is talk, again, of moving the statue for improved traffic reasons, an issue that has come up numerous times over the years. No matter what happens, the 'Spirit of the American Doughboy' is still very much alive and will always be. In the words of Bro. Ogle, "that is because the Doughboy of yes­terday passed on to his descen­dents a love of country, for God and for family."

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