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Doughboy dedication details develop

Memorial Park Superintendent Laurie Davis, left, watches Paul and Rosanne Hardwick of Flags A Fly’n install new flag polesoutside the W.G. Smith Building.The poles willhold flags of each branch of the military over Henry County’s refinished Spirit of the American Doughboy statue. The Doughboy and Flag Plaza dedication ceremony is 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 11 at the Smith Building.

By TRAVIS WEIK - tweik@thecouriertimes.com

Veterans Day 2018 is the 100th anniversary of the end of The Great War, The War to End All Wars.

Henry County will honor the men who fought in the First World War and their families with a special ceremony Sunday afternoon.

The focus of the Veterans Day events will be the dedication of Henry County’s restored “Spirit of the American Doughboy” statue and newly-constructed flag plaza at the W.G. Smith Building.

American infantrymen and Marines in World War I were often called “doughboys.” While the exact source of the nickname is lost to history, the memory of those young men was immortalized in the 1920s by Indiana sculptor E. M. Viquesney.

The Henry County Chapter of the American War Mothers purchased the local statue and dedicated it Aug. 25, 1929, “in honor of the boys from this county who served during the World War” (as inscribed on the Doughboy’s plaque).

Under the supervision of volunteer Steve Peckinpaugh and with the blessing of the Henry County Memorial Park Board, the Doughboy was taken to a specialist in Detroit a year ago for restoration.

The park board commissioned the construction of a new pedestal for the statue by the W.G. Smith Building. The pedestal is in the middle a flag plaza, surrounded by memorial bricks recognizing local veterans.

The Doughboy was placed on his new pedestal Thursday morning. He will be officially unveiled to the public Sunday afternoon.

The original plaque recognizing the Henry County Chapter of the American War Mothers has also been restored to the way it looked nearly 90 years ago.

Peckinpaugh designed the landscaping around the flag plaza to be reminiscent of the European trenches and battlefields American soldiers fought in during WWI.

“You can envision it on paper, but when you see it ... it’s just breathtaking, it’s so beautiful,” said Memorial Park Superintendent Laurie Davis.

Local companies donated much of the work and materials needed for the project. Donors also supported the work by purchasing memorial bricks installed in the walkway.

The new flag plaza makes the historic Doughboy statue more accessible to the park visitors. It also serves as a focal point of the new veterans museum being installed in the lower level of the Smith Building.

Volunteers have been working diligently to convert that space into a place to honor local military men and women.

Local artists painted murals on the interior walls depicting the various service seals and other military scenes.

Plans for the museum include a small theater where historical films can be viewed and large displays can be rotated out.

Community volunteers from the HOPE Initiative spent several hours Thursday evening getting the Henry County Veterans Museum ready for a “soft opening” Sunday, even though there are still many improvements planned for the building.

“I’m very excited about the ceremony and the entire project coming together,” Davis said. “Hopefully, everyone’s hard work is appreciated by the whole county.”

Sunday’s timeline

The Doughboy restoration and rededication project has been officially endorsed by the Indiana World War I Centennial Committee.

The dedication ceremony begins at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 11, in the W.G. Smith Building auditorium. Blue River Valley Schools Superintendent and Army veteran Eric Creviston will be the master of ceremonies.

The American Legion/VFW Color Guard will start the ceremony by posting the Colors. The Bales family will perform the National Anthem, followed by an opening prayer by Army vet and Henry County Council President Nate LaMar.

Friends of Memorial Park will present a memorial to the WWI dead.

Creviston will follow by reading the poem “Rouge Bouquet” by Joyce Kilmer, a poem memorializing the men of E Company, 1st Battalion, 69th Regiment, killed in France in 1918.

United States Army Lieutenant General Bruce Reed Harris will deliver the keynote address at the Smith Building ceremony Sunday afternoon.

Harris is the highest-ranking military officer ever to come from New Castle. The retired Army general is a graduate of the Class of 1952. 

General Harris previously spoke at the dedication of the first flag and flagpole in “Your Park” at the intersection of Ind. 3 and Ind. 38 on Aug. 8, 1982.

Peckinpaugh will cover “What’s Next?” with the project and LaMar will give a closing prayer and the Color guard will retire the Colors.

At the end of the ceremony, Davis will be joined by Aileen McGrady to officially unveil the Doughboy.

Eileen is the widow of former Memorial Park Superintendent John McGrady. Superintendent McGrady was pivotal in adding the “South 90” to Memorial Park years ago.

The Henry County community is invited to the Doughboy dedication ceremony. Refreshments will be served following the event.