Monday, November 11, 2019

Photo of the Day: Doughboy Statue, Lawrenceville Neighborhood, Pittsburgh PA

In the last few decades, visitors have flocked to Washington to see memorials for the Vietnam War, Korean War, and World War II.

But, as important as these sites are, it might be better for anyone wanting to honor veterans today simply to visit any of the statues and rolls of honor in virtually every community across the United States. 

From these towns and cities sprang the young men who fought for this country when called, from here; relatives and friends supported the war effort, worried and prayed for their safe return home; to here, surviving veterans came back, changed in ways visible and invisible—most of all, no longer really young.

I came across—and, as you can see, photographed—one such statue a few weeks ago while visiting Pittsburgh. Its Lawrenceville neighborhood, located three miles from downtown Pittsburgh, is now a mecca for millennial hipsters. But decades ago, it was part of the region’s mighty industrial engine—which in itself played a vital role in providing munitions and other materials for sustaining the war effort.

But, once I cast my eyes below the “Doughboy Statue” by Allen George Newman of New York City, erected to commemorate the Great War, I saw that this community sent off something far more significant: its young men.

After WWII, the neighborhood put up bronze tablets listing names of the 3,100 Sixth Ward residents in service in World War II, including 53 who died in action.

With each passing year, fewer and fewer people know anything about the names on plaques such as these. But to those who erected them, those honored meant the world. Those lost in the various conflicts represented gashes to the heart of their loved ones. Those who came home often struggled to pick up their interrupted lives, in ways we can only begin to appreciate now.

Maybe it would be worthwhile for those celebrating Veterans’ Day from now on to learn more about those whose service and sacrifice are honored in bronze, as well as talk to those we are still fortunate to have with us. That would vividly demonstrate that history might be made in the corridors of power, but it is experienced most fully right where we live.

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