The Great Bend Tree Board celebrated National Arbor Day on Saturday at Veterans Memorial Park by recognizing the achievements of the community and with the rededication of the newly renovated park in honor of the men who fought in World War I and in the Battle of Meuse-Argonne in Germany.
“We are so pleased to be able to dedicate this memorial to veterans of Barton County that fought in World War I and in the battle of Meuse-Argonne in Germany,” Tree Board member Lisa Whipple said. “We planned on the dedication on the 100 year anniversary of the battle and the signing of the Armistice.”
The northern part of Veterans Memorial Park was originally dedicated to the young men from Barton County (and surrounding area) who fought in the World War I, specifically, the Battle of Meuse-Argonne in Germany.
This Meuse-Argonne Battle was one of the largest and bloodiest operations in World War I, and one of the deadliest battles in American history. Fighting conditions were made even more difficult because of the densely forested terrain, thus, named the Argonne Forest Battle. This victorious battle became the turning point of the war and the Armistice was signed directly after this battle ended.
When these soldiers from Barton County (and surrounding area) returned to Great Bend, a huge parade was thrown in their honor and trees were planted in the North Section of Veterans Memorial Park in memory of the victory they achieved while fighting in this densely-forested battle ground.
Over time, while the park remains a memorial to the brave veterans of our country’s wars, much of the original World War I history of the Argonne Forest Park was lost, including the significance of the trees that had been planted in these men’s honor.
“In actuality most citizens are completely unaware that the park is called “Argonne Forest” as the only remnant of the original dedication is an unfortunately-place, worn and insignificant sign with the words “Argonne Forest” written on it,” Whipple said. “This sign is completely overlooked by most community members today.”
The Great Bend Tree Board has been diligently working over the past few years to rebuild the Argonne Forest Park area by planting additional native trees with excellent signage and also with the creation of walking paths.
Recently, The Tree Board has erected a wooden Arboretum as an entrance to the Argonne Forest Park. Within the next two weeks, signage indicating the entrance will be placed on the arboretum.
“In addition, we will also include signage to relay the original history of the park and its recent renovations.” Whipple said. “We will be including pictures and names of many of the original soldiers who fought in the Argonne Battle from the Great Bend area. There will also be benches for resting and reflection within the wooden arboretum structure.”
In addition to rededicating the newly renovated park, The Tree Board gave away free trees while they lasted to community members.
“It is our hope to renew and spread the word about the rich heritage we have within our community and to get community members to enjoy the native trees planted within the park and possibly become inspired to plant their own trees,” Whipple said. “A community with healthy, vibrant trees is a much more beautiful and enticing community to work in and visit.”
Names of the men who fought in World War I and in the Battle of Meuse-Argonne in Germany.
Raymond Becker, William Alfred Meyer, Roscoe Wilson, Leo Varner, Roscoe Chapman, Henry Brown, Alfred Susank, Otto Wood, Orah D. Fair, George Komarck, William F. Scheufler, Calvin Victor Krebaum, Alva Sloan, George Adams, William McFadden, Clyde Potts, William Suchy, Ralph W. Lee, Carl K. Gryboski, Tony Asher, Gordon C. Pickett, Oliver Harrison, Bliss Armstrong, Frank B. Kimpler, Jesse Ewing, Leo M. Hines, Edwin White, Clyde Susank, Frank J. Demel, and Leonard C. Crandall.