Vandalized World War I memorial may be moved from Grant Beach Park

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. Residing near the west side entry of Grant Beach Park, from afar you might mistake it for a water fountain and with it occupying space between a baseball field, swimming pool, and picnic pavilion, it does seem to be a little out of its element.

But in 1924 when a memorial paying tribute to 67 Springfieldians who perished in World War I was erected by several civic organizations, the monument was much more than just names engraved in stone.

"They were northside merchants, significant people in the community," explained J. Howard Fisk of the local chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution. "The spirits of those young men were a great loss to the community because over a hundred years ago when they gave their lives, it took a large portion of the business potential and economic development potential out of Springfield."

Twice in the last several years, that tribute to fallen soldiers has been knocked off its foundation and vandalized.

"We see vandalism in every park in town," said Jenny Edwards, the spokesperson for the Springfield-Greene Co. Park Board. "It's not one neighborhood, it's not one part of town and that's unfortunate. This particular item is very heavy and I don't know why it's been attractive to vandals."

It is hard to understand why anyone would want to desecrate a memorial that's dedicated to people who gave their lives for our freedom.

But Fisk reacted not in anger, but in sympathy.

"I feel sorry for them," he said. "I felt that it's unfortunate that they think it may make them feel better to take something away from someone else. They probably don't even know what the stone was. The person or persons who did that probably have great voids in their life. There are things they didn't enjoy or appreciate that the rest of us do."

After the latest vandalism in April Fisk and the local chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution started an effort to move the five-foot tall memorial. In July they got the approval of the Springfield Park Board to relocate it to the Springfield National Cemetery where plans are to place it near near the front entrance near a rostrum where ceremonial functions are held.

A memorial tribute to Pearl Harbor victims is nearby.

"This is a good fit for this particular monument," Edwards said. "We don't have a lot of memorials in parks and this is sort of a stand-alone item in Grant Beach Park that's not near other things of its type. There's not any context there. That might have felt different in the 1920's when it was placed there but with the context having changed over the last 100 years, it felt like a good idea for us to put this memorial in a place where it was in a better context."

The project still needs the federal government's approval and will cost a couple of thousand dollars to move and resurface the stone.

But for those taking up the cause it's important to make sure these soldiers are never disrespected again.

"When something's being attacked, we should take it under our wings," Fisk said. "So it will be guarded and protected from now on because they gave a great gift at a time when the world needed to rally."