The Greene County Commission on Thursday approved a letter that would seek the approval of Springfield National Cemetery officials to move the World War I Memorial Marker from Grant Beach Park to the Springfield National Cemetery at 1702 East Seminole.
The Commission’s letter cites multiple reasons for the requested move, including increased public visibility and visitation, better potential for interpretation, and increased protection for the memorial.
The memorial, located in Grant Beach Park since 1924, was vandalized in April 2019. In addition to the Greene County Commission, other groups who have endorsed seeking the Cemetery’s approval to move the memorial include the Springfield-Greene County Park Board, the Grant Beach Neighborhood Association, and the Ozark Mountain Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution.
“We wanted to be supportive of the memorial being put in a place where more folks could observe it and see it,” Greene County Presiding Commissioner Bob Dixon told OI. “I think a lot of people didn’t even know we had [a World War I memorial].”
J. Howard Fisk with the local chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution told OI that the potential move the monument was being discussed long before the April vandalism.
“We were aware of the location and the jeopardy of the stone,” Fisk told OI. “When we go over at nine in the morning to do a ceremony, we see who’s around. We see that it’s unguarded and it’s not that it’s not cared for, it’s just ignored.”
“Grant Beach park is a great park on the northwest side of Springfield in Zone 1, ” Fisk continued. “But every year, there’s comments that it’s unfortunate the monument isn’t in a place where that everyone can see and appreciate what it is.”
“So our organization felt it belonged more in a place like the Springfield National Cemetery. That thousands of people every year would have an opportunity to see it. So we talked about [potential moving of the monument] long before the vandalism.”
Fisk said he brought the vandalism up to the steering committee for the Sons of the American Revolution and several members noted they foresaw something like that happening to the monument.
“So while we had talked about moving the monument,” Fisk said, “the vandalism ended up being the catalyst for the change.”
Fisk said the group contacted the National Cemetery’s Superintendent who indicated they would be open to considering the monument’s relocation to a spot across from the Pearl Harbor memorial near the Rostrum.
“We want this to be a community celebration of that move,” Fisk told OI. “Our group, the Greene County Commission, the Park Board, the Superintendent of the National Ceremony Gary Edmondson, we want it to be a recognition of those 67 guys [whose names are on the monument] and putting them where they belong.”
There are still steps that need to be taken before the move can be completed, including paperwork filed with the federal government to gain approval for placement within the cemetery. There is no official timetable on when the monument can be moved due to the need of federal government approval of the proposal.