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Virginia holds statewide vigil to commemorate World War One Vets

Event Sept17 GuardingMemorials 250

By Chris Isleib
Director of Public Affairs, U.S. World War One Centennial Commission

On Saturday, September 17th, the World War I Centennial Commission for the Commonwealth of Virginia hosted a statewide vigil to Commemorate the state’s World War I veterans. The Vigil was organized by Lynn Rainville, a professor at Sweet Briar College.

The purpose of the vigil was to bring attention to the Virginians who served in World War I, and it was held from 11am to 1pm at several communities across the state including Front Royal, Harrisburg, Newport News, Petersburg, Byrd Park in Richmond, and in Winchester VA. Hundreds of people came out to see participate in the vigil.

Professor Rainville was inspired to put together the vigil when she saw the “We Are Here” performance art piece created by the UK’s 14-18NOW, a government-sponsored commemoration organization. On the centennial of the first day of the Battle of the Somme, “We Are Here” posted silent World War I reenactors, in uniforms with bags packed, at train stations and World War I landmarks across Britain. The piece was deeply moving, and created a great deal of conversation and introspection throughout the entire country.

 Virginia event 1Reenactors Adrienne Robertson and Greg Jones enjoy donuts at the 1926 American Legion Flagpole at Byrd Park, in Richmond VA. The flagpole lists the names of dozens of Richmonders who fought and died during The Great War. Photo by Carole Nash.

 

Rainville began research to create a similar project with Eric Yellin, a professor at the University of Richmond, who is a colleague of hers. Both Rainville and Yellin found over 200 statues, plaques, and other memorials commemorating World War I across the state of Virginia.

Virginia event 2Women played an important role in Virginia during World War I in a myriad of ways. They served as nurses in the Red Cross, and as farmettes to take over on farms from the absent menfolk. Below is reenactor Anna Kiefer dressed as a Shenandoah Valley farmer during WWI at the Liberty Statue in Harrisonburg. Photo by Carole Nash.Professor Rainville then called the local-area reenactor community, for their participation. Six reenactors agreed to “stand guard” at the participating memorial sites across the state. The reenactors who participated were Greg Jones, Anna Kiefer, Adrienne Robertson, Jay Gillispie, Chris Garcia, and Parrish Simmons.

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