Weekly Columns

On November 11, bells across Arkansas will ring 11 times at 11 a.m. in commemoration of the end of World War I. 

It’s been a century since men were fighting in the Great War, or the “war to end all wars.” We remember the Arkansans who played an integral part in this tremendous conflict. Some served in uniform; others provided care to heal the wounded; and many more supported home front efforts to supply our troops with the weapons, clothing and food necessary to accomplish their mission. Nearly 72,000 Arkansans served in uniform during WWI and 2,183 of them paid the ultimate sacrifice.  

I recently commemorated the life of Arkansan and WWI soldier Robert Jack with members of the Van Buren VFW post named in his honor. Jack was 23-years-old when he was killed by shrapnel on September 22, 1918, during the fourth day of the famous allied drive of St. Mihiel.

Jack’s service to our country is a piece of the long and proud history Arkansans have written in support of our nation’s military. He was a member of the Arkansas National Guard’s 142ndField Artillery and the 39thInfantry Brigade. As active combat teams today, the men and women who wear the insignia of the 142ndand the 39thcan be proud of the legacy of those who served before them in defense of our nation’s ideals no matter the price they may pay. 

While our countrymen and women made important contributions to the Allied victory, it is important to remember that victory came at a considerable cost. One of the mothers of a WWI soldier who gave his life channeled her energy to support others who experienced the loss of a loved one in military service. 

This year we recognize the 90thanniversary of the founding of that organization, American Gold Star Mothers —an exclusive group that no one seeks to join. The group was named after the Gold Star that families hung in windows in honor of their deceased soldier. Its members are all too familiar with the pain of losing someone close to their heart. Their continued strength serves to comfort one another as well as other families in their time of need.

In 2013, Congress created the WWI Centennial Commission to commemorate the end of the Great War. One way the commission has seen fit to honor and memorialize WWI soldiers is with the creation of a national WWI monument in our nation’s capital. Arkansas native and 2013 graduate of the Fay Jones School of Architecture at the University of Arkansas, Joseph Weishaar, submitted a design for the memorial competition, which was ultimately selected by the commission. There is still a long way to go to complete the memorial, but we can be proud of Arkansas’s connection to this project.

WWI changed the world and helped establish our nation’s place in it. Commemorating WWI is important to honoring the service and sacrifice of the soldiers who gave their lives, those who were wounded in action and each and every servicemember who played their part at home or abroad. We also express our deep gratitude to the families who sent their loved ones to serve in uniform. The centennial is a time to reflect on the sacrifice of the men and women who fearlessly served the greater cause of democracy and freedomand the families who supported them.