Project remembers World War I, marks anniversary of America’s entry

“It’s a war that’s quickly being forgotten. We need to recognize World War I instead for the pivotal position it played in shaping modern America and its place in the world. It should be remembered forever.”

That’s how a Richland College professor describes World War I as the centennial anniversary of America’s entry into that conflict arrives on Thurs., April 6, across the country with, at times, little fanfare.

Clive Siegle doesn’t forget, and neither do his students, because he reminds them of the historic event and a war whose last veterans only recently have passed into history.

“This war is fading from America’s collective memory, and yet here we are, on the threshold of its 100th anniversary. It was a war that remade our world – an event of incredible international dissonance,” Siegle said. “Thankfully, a National World War I Memorial finally is being commissioned in Washington, D.C. A first-class museum in Kansas City also is dedicated to the war, which hopefully will help spark renewed public interest.”

Siegle and art faculty colleague Jennifer Rose began working almost two years ago on a project designed to commemorate WWI and to resurrect the poppy flower that long has represented veterans who fought and died during that conflict. With the help of hundreds of students – more than half were international – and community members, they created 5,171 ceramic poppies to remember the number of Texas veterans who died during WWI.

Poppies have been a memorial symbol for fallen soldiers since 1920, inspired by Lt. Col. John McCrae’s poem, “In Flanders Fields,” and its depiction of the bright red flowers growing among the battlefield graves in Western Europe:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

An American professor from another era, Moina Michael, is credited with promoting the poppy as an international sign of remembrance and sacrifice. She tirelessly advocated the creation and sale of paper and silk poppies to raise money for disabled veterans of the Great War.

Richland’s ceramic poppies were exhibited in fall 2015 along the shore of the college’s lake, and they were sold for $10 each; all proceeds were donated to Puppies Behind Bars, a nonprofit group that trains inmates to raise service dogs for wounded veterans. To date, Siegle said that poppy sales in Dallas and in Georgetown (where a separate exhibit was installed last year for the city’s annual Red Poppy Festival) have raised more than $25,000 for the organization.

“This project has been a chance for us to resurrect something that is uniquely American,” Siegle said.

Several hundred poppies still line the lake at Richland and can be purchased to benefit Puppies Behind Bars. The exhibit in Georgetown has been moved from the city’s courthouse to the library, where visitors can still enjoy and purchase Richland’s ceramic poppies, too.

Siegle, Rose and other team members from the Richland College “Blood of Heroes Never Dies” Memorial Poppies Project recently were recognized by the League for Innovation in the Community College with the 2017 John and Suanne Roueche Excellence Award. The award celebrates outstanding contributions and leadership by community college faculty and staff.

SOURCE Dallas County Community College District