Sunday, November 11, 2018 11:00 a.m.
Armistice Day, 100th Anniversary of the end of World War I
Victory Memorial Grove, Elysian Park, Los Angeles
A tree planting dedicated to RESTORING the historical Elysian Park WWI Victory Memorial Grove, REMEMBERING and honoring veterans and loved ones, and REFORESTING Elysian Park
They were called Doughboys. Then, as now, many theories exist but there’s no agreement on where the name came from. Like the war they fought in, the Doughboys have been largely forgotten by us as time has marched on. In many ways this collective amnesia is stunning. I’m
not going to have a classroom lecture this morning – but here’s some quick numbers. We lost more servicemen in The Great War than in Vietnam and Korea combined, in only around a year and a half. In 47 days in the Meuse-Argonne, we lost nearly four times the combined amount of Americans that have fallen in the Afghanistan and Iraqi Wars in nearly twenty years. Over 26 thousand in one battle, the deadliest in US history. Yet it’s anonymous today. People can picture battles like Gettysburg or D-Day, but how many have even heard of the Meuse-Argonne?
Somehow, we have forgotten all this in the century since. However, when the war first ended there was a massive demand to memorialize those who had served and those who had fallen. Memorials of all sorts were erected. I’ve found over two dozen in LA County – everything
from simple plaques to the LA Memorial Coliseum (which most people do not realize is a war memorial). And of course, we have this little park-within-a-park. It also contains the beautiful monument up top that was put there by local California Chapters of Daughters of the American Revolution. It records their family members who perished in the war. As far as the trees go, I believe there may have been over 40 planted here – perhaps many more. I’ve also discovered numerous other names in paperwork that are not being replaced today. Speaking of which, I’d now like to acknowledge Denise Delurgio who is joining us. Her Grandfather, Captain Walter Brinkop, bought some of the first trees planted here for the men from his unit lost in France. Maybe someday I will locate the full list and we can attempt to reforest even more of the Grove.
Parks and trees were common memorials throughout the country after the war. It makes sense that in a period of honoring the fallen that trees would be planted as symbols of long life and remembrance. Americans also felt the need to try and reforest the world since so many trees had been lost to either battle itself or to help build things for the war effort. I think a final reason might have been Joyce Kilmer. Kilmer was a very famous poet before the war and signed up, serving overseas. He died from a sniper shot to the head in France. His most enduring poem “Trees” adorned many plaques in these new memorial parks throughout the country. Though it’s not found here – I feel it’s fitting to read given this ceremony today.
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
– Courtland Jindra