Important Work Still Yet to be Done
by Nora (Lopez Island)
16 May 2017
On April 25th a group of seven students from Lopez Island traveled to Olympia to attend the one-hundredth anniversary of Washington State’s involvement in World War One. We were invited to this event by Washington’s Secretary of State and the Washington State Historical Society to present the Monuments Project along with our American School of Paris (ASP) counterparts via Video Presentation. Our day was long and eventful. Not only did we get the chance to introduce the project, but we also had the pleasure of meeting many of our state representatives in honoring our State’s contribution to WWI.
Our day started early at 6:00 in the morning, the time we had to get up in order to catch the first ferry off of Lopez Island so that we could make it to Olympia, a four-hour trip. After a forty minute ferry ride and stop and go traffic on I-5, we arrived at the Washington State Capitol Building just before the event. We setup up a project display table at the event and made introductions with the event’s organizer, Susan Roth. Roth is the director of the Washington State Historical Society. We also meet the with the Secretary of State’s staff who helped us prepare for our presentation. The room was abuzz with state representatives, historians and veterans, all there to celebrate our state’s contribution to the Great War. As the crowd began to move to their seats, our nerves began to set in. It was time to present our project and join in honoring the 29 soldiers from Washington State who were laid to rest in Suresnes, France.
The formal event began with the Guards of Honor setting both the flags of Washington and the United States in the front of the room. After the flags had been presented, Kayla led the pledge of allegiance and the event began. As the pledge ended, the audience took their seats and Senator Conway took the podium.
It turns out Senator Conway has a Ph.D. in American and European History and shared his passion for history in his speech. He explained, “that WWI was the first time that the United State’s organized on a large scale, international mobilization.” He also discussed Washington State’s rich maritime history and the fact that “our state produced more ships for WWI than any other state in the nation.” This made me recall that several of our project’s soldiers were lost at sea after their boats were attacked by German submarines.
Senator Conway was followed by WWI historian, Lorraine McConaghy. McConaghy helped the audience understand the significant impact that WWI had on the citizens of Washington State. She explained that the Washington State legislator was one of the first to enact prohibition, a ban on alcohol, in large part because making alcohol required wheat that could be used to feed soldiers in WWI. As McConaghy explained, “during WWI, food became a weapon” and Washington State farmers understood how important their crops were to the war effort. McConaghy went on to explain the importance of Washington state lumber in both the production of ships and aircraft. McConaghy also explored the role of women during and after the Great War and as she explains, “this was a war of women and children as well as a war of men. Women were involved in every aspect of preparing for war.” McConaghy’s presentation helped us understand that the battles of WWI were fought by soldiers in trenches, mothers cooking meatless dinners, children planting home gardens, farmers in wheat fields and industrial workers toiling in factories or shipyards.
Next up was Alfie Alvarado, the first female director of the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs. Alvarado explained that of all the War Monuments in Washington State, the WWI Winged Victory Monument that stands in front of our state's capital is her favorite. This is because it not only represents all of the branches of the armed forces, it includes a female nurse. As Alvarado says, “few monuments across the country make that detail, and that is something unique to the state of Washington.” Alvarado reminded us that monuments, “are not about celebrating the glories of war but remembering, they are reminders for future generations.” Alvarado’s point is well taken and reinforces the importance of the Monuments Project. As students of two countries tied closely together in the sacrifices of WWI, we all hope that our project stands as a similar reminder to the world.
Taking the stage after these great speakers was more than a little nerve wracking to say the least. Tim Fry and Anthony Rovente introduced the Monuments Project and explained how an article about ProjectWa led a phone call from Thomas Neville. At that point, Thomas Neville joined us on stage via video. Neville explained “ I had been working with Gerald Lowe of the American Battle Monuments Commission. Gerald presented to me what seemed to be a very natural scenario for a very engaging project-based learning opportunity. That this cemetery is full of individuals whose stories haven't been told.” Neville’s previous work with digital mapping along with our school’s work with location aware apps seems to be a perfect combination to tell these stories. Claude Lorde from the American School followed by explaining the importance of this project “being student driven with the help of American Battle Monuments Commission, Washington State Office of Secretary of State and the Washington State Historical Society.” ASP students Jesse and David presented next and helped to explain the nuts and bolts of the project. David discussed how our collaboration and research “will be posted on the project’s website and App.” Lopez student presenters went into greater detail about the App. We ended the presentation in the words of Emma who said, “we hope other schools around the world will want to get involved.” Presenting the Monuments Project State Capital helped all of us understand the importance of the project, working as a team and the ultimate sacrifice of our soldiers.
After the presentation, the crowd proceeded to the Winged Victory Monument which stands just outside of the State Capitol Building. There, veterans of our armed forces placed a wreath to commemorate those who lost their lives during the world’s Great War. This concluded the event but has helped us understand the important work still yet to be done in the Monuments Project.