Every teacher can spot certain students who will go on to do great things, but even I could not have guessed that our own Joe Weishaar, of Fayetteville, Ark., would be chosen to design a national memorial to the millions of Americans who served during World War 1.
For 17 years I have served as a Gifted and Talented Facilitator at McNair Middle School in the Fayetteville Public Schools. Twelve years ago, Joe was my student in my gifted class.
I clearly remember him as a serious, attentive, sweet student. Imagine my pride when he was announced as the winner of an international design competition earlier this year! Joe's World War I memorial design beat out more than 360 submissions from over 20 countries and now, on the cusp of the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entering World War I, he will have a chance to honor the millions of Americans who served in that war.
Building a national World War I memorial is an incredibly important undertaking for Joe, for our veterans, for our state and our country.
There were 71,862 young Arkansans, many younger than Joe's 26 years, who served in World War I. Arkansans Marcellus Chiles and Oscar Miller earned the Medal of Honor in World War I, and John Henry Pruitt, a proud Marine from Fallsville, is one of a precious few who received the Medal of Honor twice. On the homefront, people of all ages helped in the war effort.
This memorial will honor these Arkansans, and our challenge is this: Like the national tributes to those who served in Vietnam and World War II, Joe's World War I memorial must be built with private donations, so this summer I made a donation at ww1cc.org.
I made that donation to honor my grandfather, my great-uncle, and my husband's grandfather, all of whom served proudly during the Great War.
Those men served in the first conflict that saw America turn outward to project and protect our values. Domestically, America grew in leaps and bounds between 1917 and 1918, with our technology, manufacturing, science and medicine all rocketing forward due to the demands of the war. America came into the conflict on horses and left flying planes, and in many ways our society, economy, and role in the world reflect the growth we experienced during World War I.
In the coming weeks, families, communities and veterans across the country will be preparing to celebrate Veterans Day, and more people should know that the origins of Veterans Day lie in World War I. For decades this country celebrated Armistice Day on the 11th day of the 11th month.
It was on a cold November 11 in 1918 that the first World War finally came to an end after more than 11 million military deaths and 7 million civilians. The carnage redefined Western civilization, and many of the battlefields remain disfigured today.
I decided to help Joe build this World War I memorial because Arkansas values like courage, honor, patriotism and sacrifice defined a generation 100 years ago. They continue to be important lessons for the youth I have in my classroom every day. In fact, some of my students, along with volunteers from around Northwest Arkansas, will be helping by selling poppy seed packets outside supermarkets and other locations in the weeks leading into Veterans Day. We can all help, and all the proceeds will help Joe.
World War I is commemorated across Europe. People of all ages take time every year to remember this conflict and the critical role played by millions of American soldiers. A total of 116,516 Americans made the ultimate sacrifice in the Great War, and many of those are buried in Western Europe.
Here in the United States, it is time that we remember and honor those who sacrificed for others, even when our country wasn't in imminent danger.
One way we can all do this is to support Arkansas' Joe Weishaar as he designs this memorial for the 4.7 million young Americans who wore the uniform during World War I.
Please join me in this honorable effort.
Vanessa Seward lives in Fayetteville.
Editorial on 10/07/2016