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Residents reject changes to Doughboy plaque

Sarah Harrington

(10/24) Residents and members of the Emmitsburg VFW and the American Legion gathered together at the town meeting on October 19 to express their opposition to any changes to the historic plaque attached to the Doughboy statue. The plaque lists the names of local men who fought in World War One.

A few of the letters on the plaque were slightly damaged in the June auto accident that knocked the Doughboy statue off its pedestal. Since the damage was deemed minor, the state-approved conservator only recommend repairing the damaged letters, rather than replacing the plaque. In spite of this recommendation, a few vocal members of the community have used the accident to agate for the replacement of the 88-year-old plaque. It lists three veterans under a separate header of "Colored Troops," which they see as a vestige of racism in Emmitsburg.

Martin Williams, Commander of the Emmitsburg VFW post and a decedent of two of the veterans listed as "colored" on the plaque, refuted the claim that if the plaque was kept the way it was, it would cause Emmitsburg to come across as a racist town. Williams stressed that the statement was far from the truth, and the plaque needed to remain as is.

Sharon Williams, President of the Ladies Auxiliary of the VFW seconded Williamsí thoughts saying, "We should not change anything on the statue, it is not our job to change history."

In addition to the Williamsí opinion, a host of other residents added their voices to the call to keep the historic plaque as it is. No one spoke in favor of replacing the plaque.

One of the main questions on the minds of those present at the meeting was why it had taken the town so long to restore the statue. Veterans and residents alike expressed their beliefs that the delay in restoring the statue and plaque was disrespectful to the men who had fought so hard to earn that statue, as well as the citizens of 1927 who paid for it out of their own pockets and later entrusted it to the town for safe-keeping.

According to town manager Dave Haller, the reason behind the delay in moving the statue was due to the fact the state had told the town it could not move the monument on their own, but instead needed a qualified monument mover. If the town had moved the statue, Haller said, it could have compromised their chances of receiving financial support for the repairs.

According to Haller, the town has received a bid for repairs on the statue, but unfortunately, the bid is currently incomplete. The board could not discuss the bid publicly, due to its incomplete status. Haller explained that the town is currently in negotiation with the business that placed the bid and if the bid was discussed openly, it could be compromised. Even though the bid could not be discussed at the time, Haller strongly encouraged the board to take public comments on the issue and consider them. The board held a closed executive session after the town meeting to discuss the bid in further detail.

In mid-October, the statue and plaque were moved to a shed at the wastewater treatment facility where they will be safe and out of the elements until repairs can begin.

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