Hundreds gather to dedicate new Millwood World War I Memorial

Ninety-nine years ago, hundreds gathered in Millwood to dedicate Argonne Road and Argonne Bridge to the memory of local soldiers who lost their lives during World War I.

Both the road and bridge were named after the Argonne Offensive, a defining battle that lead to the end of World War I. On the bridge were plaques with the names of all of the men from the community that had died, and a separate plaque commemorating the historic occasion.

In 1970, the bridge was repaired and all traces of the memorials were lost.

Fast forward to present day, when the local chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) learned about the forgotten memorial.

Project manager RaeAnna Victor said they were left heartbroken. An essay contest with local high schools solidified the need for them to erect and resurrect another special tribute.

“We just had as an off-shoot of this. We were just at a ceremony for our sponsored essay writing contest for the students to say what they knew about Argonne and why it was their responsibility to carry history forward. None of the students in any of the classes knew why Argonne bridge was named Argonne bridge or Argonne Road,” said Victor.

Originally, the DAR and their partnering organizations were going to put plaques back on the bridge, but they were encouraged to go bigger.

So, that’s what they did.

Down the street from the bridge at the intersection of Argonne and Empire, they erected a monument that says “WWI Memorial.” Atop the sign is an original “doughboy” helmet worn by a soldier in WWI.

The non-profit was able to find one of the original plaques – it was in the office of an engineer. That plaque is featured prominently on the new memorial, on either side the logo for the DAR and the American Legion.

One plaque they could not locate was the one that had the names of all of the fallen soldiers. The DAR said it was imperative the new memorial include their names so they will never be forgotten. They had a new plaque made and it sits right in the middle of the memorial.

In the spring, a beautiful garden will be planted right behind the memorial. It will be filled with poppies, the flower most commonly associated with World War I.

Stan Wills helped to plan the Argonne World War I Memorial, as the historian with another contributing organization, the Sons of the American Revolution.

It was hard for him to put into words what it meant to him to be a part of the planning.

Wills is a veteran and has a long line of veterans in his family history. He recently traced his family tree back to the American Revolution and learned his five-time great grandfather fought.

His grandfather served in World War I and was a part of the Argonne Offensive. Wills said his grandfather never shared that with him, though — the memories were too painful.

“I couldn’t wait to help in any way I could. I was so honored they were going to bring this back to life. It’s one of my fondest associations with any historical preservation that I’ve ever done,” said Wills.

You can now see the Argonne World War I Memorial at the corner of Empire and Argonne and Millwood.

Hundreds gather to dedicate new Millwood World War I Memorial