This last Thursday, April 6th, a small group of us from my department went to Florida National Cemetery for a number of projects, including the Florida in World War I Project. The cemetery, which is in Sumter County, is over 500 acres with over 100,000 internments. The cemetery is vast, pristinely kept, and honors veterans from numerous wars including the First World War.
April 6th marked the one hundred year centenary that the United States officially entered the ‘war to end all wars’. The United States had remained neutral during the first two and a half years; however, for a variety of reasons, President Woodrow Wilson, the man whose presidental reelection campaign centered on his keeping the USA out of war, went to and asked Congress on April 2nd to have the United States declare war on Germany. He argued that the world needed to “be made safe for democracy.” On April 6th, Wilson’s request was answered and the United States officially entered the war it was divided over. There are many debates as to whether or not the United States should have participated in the war, but the reality is whether or not the United States should or should not have entered the war, the United States did enter the war. I am not going to go into that debate or give my argument of what I believe to be the reasons why the United States entered the war. Instead, I want to reflect on my time at the cemetery on that one hundred year cenntenial.
I was honored to be at the cemetery on the centennial of the USA’s entry in the First World War to commemorate those that served. Being there reminded me that the First World War is comprised of so many individuals that sacrificed so much- not just for themselves, but for so many others. It reminded too, that there are still those who do the same now.
Below is a photograph of one of the many monuments/memorials placed in the cemetery. It was incredible to see these monuments/memorials and their dedications. The one below is dedicated to Florida veterans of World War I. The quote on the right side of the monument is from the famous “In Flanders Fields” by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae. McCrae was a Canadian physician in the war, who died before the end of the war from pneumonia.
When I decided to center my research on the First World War, I was specifically drawn in by how many lives it affected and the ways it affected those lives. Going to the cemetery reminded of how war is comprised of individuals reaffirms how important it is to remember and commemorate. I hope that not only with my research and the Florida in World War I Project helps to remember and commemorate those lives.