On Wartime and Postwar Commemoration
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On Wartime and Postwar Commemoration
Commemorating the actions of those who served in World
War I took many forms in its attempt to ease the suffering
and losses inflicted by the war. The creation of memorials
served several purposes and with time, the meanings
associated with them changed, as did the purposes with
which they served. Support groups were formed to aid
those in need whose lives became radically changed by the
war, and in an effort to commemorate their service.
Without aleving the pain completely, commemoration
served to ease the tremendous burden of guilt, sorrow, and
responsibility to those whose lives were now changed
World War I memorials generally fell into three separate
categories based upon the time of their creation. The first
type of memorials were those which were created in the
years preceding 1918. These memorials scattered the
landscape and were created and developed at the
community level. The erection of commemorative
memorials to the war served as a unifying symbol of the
community spirit and as a centerpiece with which to rally
around. They also served as a physical statement against
those who may offer dissenting opinions as to the
communities involvement in the war effort. The moral high
ground was thus established in the symbolism of a united
effort. They also served to support the community's brave
young men who were off fighting gallantly for the security
and preservation of it's ideals and in essence the community
itself. Local memorials also served to inspire and motivate
those who labored in industry dedicated to the war effort.
It created a sense of purpose and a realization that what
they were working for had a larger meaning and purpose.
Local war memorials also served as
rallying points for the enlistment of soldiers. The statuesque
soldier brazenly dashing to war was accompanied with
listings of locals who had enlisted. This inspired even
greater enlistment while creating a public record of scorn to
those who chose to ignore their "duty."
As the war continued past a glorious moment and quick
victory, the memorials took on more of a role of a museum.
The collection of combat memorabilia increased.
Photographs, books, and art describing the war continued.
Descriptions of the weapons of war and the style of
warfare that was taking place on the front lines was
requested, however in order to preserve the dignity of the
war, a good deal of censorship was practiced. Accounts of
the brutality were circulating back to the homefront through
letters and personal accounts of those who had returned.
Government regulation of the memorials however,
determined that in order to maintain support for the war
and to quell opposition to the countries war efforts, the
memorials would not portray an accurate description of
what was happening to the local communities fallen sons in
far away lands.
In the decade following Armistice, the second set of
memorial arose with less of a heroic bias. These memorials
tended to be oriented around churches and civic sites. The
meaning behind these memorials was entirely different from
those erected during the war. There was no longer a need
to rally support for enlistment and production for the war
machine. The grieving families now became the center of
attention as a desperate need for explanation and
justification of their losses required attending. The
communities, after enduring such losses, also needed to find
justification. The evaluation as to their accomplishments in
war with relation to their losses was difficult to weigh in
favor of the war. The losses were paid for both in lives and
resources. The living was then given the chance to honor
the dead at the memorials, while provided an opportunity
to pay their respects. An unspoken silence, a bowed head,
or a fought back tear were all signs of the indebtedness
with which the living had in honoring those who gave all in
preservation of a way of live. The two themes of war being
both noble and tragic tended to be included in almost the
entire second category of memorials. A physical memorial
with which a family member could touch or read their loved
one's name provided a necessary step in their grieving
process. The ability to let go of those lost was essential in
their mourning process, so that they could come to grips
with the fact that they were in fact no longer one of the
living, and had passed on. A sense of finality could be
achieved with the visiting of these memorials. With a loved
one being killed for ideals in such a far land, and in many
cases never returning for a funeral at his home, the family
needed some form of permanence to accept the
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World War I memorials, World War I, War memorial, Commonwealth War Graves Commission
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