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Veterans reject changes to Doughboy statue

Sarah Harrington

(8/1) It has been more than 40 days since the Doughboy statue, located in front of the Emmit House on West Main Street, was knocked off its pedestal after being hit by a car. The statue did not sustain any damage as a result of the June 17th accident, and the concrete pedestal upon which it stood was only slightly chipped. Residents of Emmitsburg have begun to express their frustration over the town’s failure to even stand the statue upright, let alone place it back on its pedestal.

The Doughboy statue has been a part of Emmitsburg for almost 90 years. The statue was erected in 1927 in honor of the veterans of "The Great World War." A life-size representation of an American "Doughboy," the statue is accompanied by a bronze plaque that lists the names of the Emmitsburg area men who served in the war.

In 1926, the residents of Emmitsburg formed a Memorial Committee to erect the monument. News reports of the time recount the community holding bake sales and even children collecting pop bottles to raise funds for the monument. Following a town celebration in 1927, the Memorial Committee dedicated the Doughboy monument and gave it, and land upon which it stood, to the town for safe keeping. The Doughboy has stood there proudly ever since.

The vehicle collision in June left the Doughboy on its back and ultimately sparked controversy in the town. The plaque that accompanies the statue lists a separate heading for "Colored Soldiers." At the time of the statue’s dedication, this distinction was a common practice.

Following the accident, Mayor Briggs sought input from the local Veterans of Foreign War and the American Legion about moving the monument to another location and changing the plaque to remove the separate heading for "Colored Soldiers."

Members of the VFW and Legion unanimously rejected any idea of moving the statue or replacing the historic plaque. Instead, members expressed frustration with the town’s inability to restore the iconic statue to its rightful place, saying it was an "embarrassment" that no repairs had been made to the statue yet.

Martin Williams, Commander of the Emmitsburg VFW and a descendent of one of the soldiers listed as "colored" on the plaque, echoed the concerns of the veterans. "The Doughboy and the plaque are pieces of Emmitsburg’s history and should stay as they are and where they are," said Williams. "The statue should have been fixed within a week. That fact that it has taken this long to even stand the statue upright, let alone put it back on its pedestal, is an affront to all veterans," Williams added.

The delay in the repair of the statue is due in part to the nature of the statue, which is not solid, but a thin sheet of copper on a wire frame. The town’s maintenance staff did not feel qualified to move it. In addition, the statue is located in the town’s Historic District, which has delayed repairs due to state red-tape. The town has retained a state approved conservator and is awaiting their assessment of the damage and repair proposal. Once that report is in hand, the town will advertise for bidders for the repair. In the meantime, the Maryland Historical Trust has provided recommendations on how to stabilize the statue until repairs commence.

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