Photo by George Lauby
The WWI monument at 4th and Jeffers
Recently I dined with a friend at King Buffet. The last part of the event was to break open the fortune cookie and read the message inside.
My verse was "Your fondest wish will come true this year."
I've been thinking what my favorite wish would be and have settled on two wishes, however, I will comment on only one of them.
I think one wish would be for me to be "Commissioner for a day." If I were awarded that wish, I would spend the day encouraging my constituents to ask the other two commissioners serving Lincoln County residents to endorse my idea to move the World War I monument from the courthouse lawn to a place near the obelisk in Iron Horse Park (not far from the 20th Century Veteran's Memorial.)
There are three picnic tables and a flagpole already near the site I would select for the monument. I would place the beautiflul stone south of the obelisk and in the shadow of the nice tree growing there. (I believe the tree is in the weeping willow family.)
I would place the stone facing east where the sun would shine on it in the morning. My dad told me that the head of a grave is always to the west so the sun would shine in the eyes of the dead at the start of each new day. At sunset, he explained, the deceased could close their eyes and rest through eternity. That placement would show our respect for the dead.
I believe the monument deserves the honor of being placed in Iron Horse Park. The stone would have its own little area of hallowed ground and would enhance the 20th Century Veterans Memorial nearby and not detract from it.
If I were granted my wish, I would make every effort to move that precious WWI stone to a place where residents of Lincoln County and tourists would read and understand the deep significant reason why the stone was erected in the first place.
By David C. Olson, Past Commander, Disabled American Veterans, Chapter 3, North Platte
EDITOR'S NOTE: The WWI monument must be moved at least a few feet because Jeffers St./US 83 will be widened slightly next summer.
The monument is a tribute to those who served in the 89th Division of the 355th Infantry of World War I from 1917-19, which fought bloody battles across France and Germany.
The unit was organized Aug. 27, 1917 at Camp Funston, Kan., with enlisted men from Nebraska, junior officers generally from Kansas, Missouri and Colorado, and senior officers from the regular army, according to the free online encyclopedia, Wikipedia. The soldiers drilled ceaselessly over eight months despite a lack of adequate equipment, dreadful living conditions, and outbreaks of disease in the camps. Less than a year after the regiment was formed, the men were fighting on the front in France.
The 1st battalion of the regiment was the first unit of the division to occupy the active front and on the night of Aug. 7-8, 1918 was subjected to a severe gas shell bombardment.
The regiment fought on the European front until the German forces surrendered and the war ended on Nov. 11, 1918.
The regiment was demobilized June 1-3, 1919.
“May the indomitable spirit of these men live forever,” the statue says.
The statue was dedicated at a reunion of the regiment on Sept. 14, 1947.
The Fourth and Jeffers intersection was the main intersection of North Platte until Interstate-80 was constructed in the late 1960s - early 1970s, and it remains a busy corner.