Long Island Veterans Memorial Plaza: In Remembrance of Our World War I Veterans
By Jun-Yi Wu
via the Stony Brook University (NY) web site
In spring 2021, students in English 309 studied the history and literature of World War I. A few students elected to fulfill Stony Brook’s experiential learning requirement (EXP+) by visiting, researching, and writing about a WWI memorial on Long Island. In the first of these posts, English major Jun-Yi Wu writes about a Copiague memorial.
An unnamed American soldier stands 11-feet tall north of the Copiague train station on a piece of land named the “Veterans Memorial Plaza.” Behind him, a marker lists the names of Italian-American soldiers who fought during World War I. The Veterans Plaza Memorial dates back to the 1920s, a couple of years after the end of WWI, but on December 15, 2015, a doughboy statue was erected, and renovations were made to the old veterans plaza.
From August of 1914 to November of 1918, the world witnessed one of the largest and most influential wars it has ever seen. The battles during WWI not only changed the landscape of Europe due to trench warfare, but they also damaged civilization and would forever change Europe’s thoughts about the principles of constitutionalism, the rule of law, and representative government. Soldiers in Europe began to resent their government for making them fight in a war that they believed would be honorable. Instead, war tactics evolved during WWI, and soldiers had to suffer surprise attacks, unbearable weather conditions, and chemical warfare. English poet Robert Graves, who fought in the war, wrote in an article in The Observer that the trenches were “like air-raid shelters hastily dug in a muddy field, fenced by a tangle of barbed wire, surrounded by enormous craters; subjected not only to an incessant air-raid of varying intensity, but to constant surprise attacks by professional killers, and without any protection against flooding times of heavy rain.” WWI would forever change the way that countries fought war, and it would heavily influence the way that war was fought during WWII.
However, in the United States, the First World War is often overshadowed by the Second World War. Even though WWI lasted for four years, most Americans wanted to remain neutral in the war, so the U.S. did not enter the war until April of 1917. For the majority of WWI, the United States kept their distance from the war while supplying goods and ammunition to the Allied Powers. Although WWI is often overshadowed by the WWII, military historian John Keegan argues that the Great War sparked “a legacy of political rancor and racial hatred so intense that no explanation of the causes of the Second World War can stand without reference to those roots.” The war tactics of Nazi-Germany—the gas chambers, barbed-wire concentration camps, and blitzkriegs—are as much relics of the First World War as they are of the Second.
It is important to remember the wars and honor the veterans to not only appreciate their courage but to also let people learn from the catastrophes of war. In the 1920s, Copiague constructed the WWI Immigrant Memorial, a marker with the names of Italian-Americans from Long Island who fought in WWI.
Read the entire article on the Stony Brook University web site here:
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