By Mark Christ, Arkansas Historic Preservation Program
I think that I shall never see
A poem as lovely as a tree
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
American poet Joyce Kilmer wrote those words in 1914, four years before his death in battle in France during World War I. We are now marking the 100th anniversary of the Great War, a conflict in which 71,862 Arkansans served, 2,183 died, and 1,751 suffered wounds or injuries.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson created the Arkansas World War I Centennial Commemoration Committee to help guide Arkansas’ remembrance of the Great War. Among the committee’s mandates are to facilitate World War I-related activities throughout the state and to encourage civic, historical, educational, economic, and other organizations across the state to organize and participate in activities to expand the understanding and appreciation of the significance of World War I.
As one of its top projects, the committee is advocating the planting of WWI Memorial Trees around the state. There was a world-wide movement beginning in 1919 to plant trees as living memorials to the millions who lost their lives. A small grove of holly trees on the Henderson State University campus in Arkadelphia survives today as a reminder of that effort.
The Arkansas World War I Centennial Commemoration Committee hopes to see a WWI Memorial Tree planted in each of Arkansas’ counties before the centennial observance ends in 2018, and invites county governments across the state to participate in this project, along with local Scout troops, American Legion posts, and others. T
To learn more, visit www.ww1arkansas.com; email firstname.lastname@example.org; or call (501) 324-9886. Together, we can again honor the thousands of Arkansans who fought and died in the Great War.
Author Mark Christ is the community outreach director for the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program.