Don’t forget Memorial Mile: memorial to local World War I veterans

Published 10:12 pm Friday, November 9, 2018

AMERICUS — This Sunday is the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I when the Armistice was signed at 11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. Veterans Day evolved from that conflict, initially called Armistice Day, and is now celebrated as a national holiday every Nov. 11 to recognize all military veterans of the United States since the American Revolution.
About three miles north of the Americus on U.S. Highway 19 is Memorial Mile, a memorial to Sumter County World War I veterans. About 10 years after the end of that war, Vivian Foy Jones, who was the president of Americus and Sumter County Garden Clubs, originated and sponsored this living memorial to the local veterans. Forty small, granite monuments with bronze plaques with details about the veteran were placed alternately between magnolia trees on both sides for one mile of the road along then Highway 19. Over time an additional 20 monuments were added.
Several years ago, at the request of then state Sen. George Hooks, this short stretch of highway was saved when Highway 19 was widened to four lanes. Since then, several groups lead by Rebecca McNeil and others have worked to keep the memorial alive by replacing damaged monuments and adding additional ones sponsored by veterans’ families.
At the north end of the Memorial Mile is a large bronze Blue Star Memorial on a post declaring this quiet stretch of road as “A tribute to the Armed Forces that have defended the United States of America,” and is sponsored by the Garden Clubs of Georgia, Georgia Department of Transportation, Sumter County Federation of Garden Clubs, and Early Bloomers Garden Club of Americus. These groups maintain the small garden at the north and south end of the mile and keep new American flags flying at both ends. It is a peaceful memorial to the memory of those who answered their country’s call 100 years ago to fight in the “War to End All Wars.”
— Submitted by Herschel A. Smith III