The Orange County Expedition: One History Buff's journey to discover the World War I Monuments & Memorials of Orange County
Part III: Crusader Pride!
By Aaron W. Lefkowitz
As I mentioned last time, my best friend, Zachary Andrews, had accompanied me on a daylong adventure to find and document the World War I Memorials. Frequently, we walk around the ponds in Monroe and notice that there is a small park across the street, called the Veterans Memorial Park, so we started there to see the memorial, to the residents of Zack's beloved hometown.
When I contacted Monroe's Historian, James Nelson, to ask him about some finer details, not just did he answer my questions, he lent me a small book, from 1921, detailing about Monroe and its citizens, specific actions during the War. This humble book, formally titled, Monroe in the World War: A Story of Your Home Town and Its Honor Men, gave a great amount of detail about Monroe's residents as well as an excellent complement to the Memorial and I greatly appreciate it!
Though, multiple men are listed as dying in service, only one of them has a picture in the book, George C. McElroy. McElroy had served as a Private in the Marine Corp. The Marines set a much higher standard than the other branches, emphasizing physical endurance and marksmanship. It was because of their exceptional abilities, that U.S. Commander. John Pershing sent the Marines to break the Germans at the Battle of Belleau Wood, where the Marines would have their baptism by fire. Belleau Wood was a bloody battle with many men killed on the opening day, June 6th, including McElroy, however it was due to the Marines' ferocity, that the Germans were beaten there. McElroy is buried at the Aisne-Marne Cemetery in France, with many of his fallen brothers in arms.
Often, when we think of World War I, we believe that most of those killed, died on the battlefield or from injuries. However, when the Americans arrived in Europe in 1918, they not just brought millions of troops, they also brought the Influenza. Like wildfire, the flu spread through an already war-ravaged Europe and America. Many of the sick would be taken to hospitals back in the United States, including many in New York City. Amy Todt was one of the countless women, who volunteered as nurses during the War and was assigned to work at Bellevue Hospital. She would catch the flu and passed away on October 15th, 1918 at the Hospital. A special section of the memorial plaque is specifically dedicated to her.
Dying in service is indeed a most noble act, but their deaths are stilled mourned as tragedies. Still to this day, Americans volunteer to serve, knowing full well, that they are putting their lives on the live for ours. Though those serving in combat were most of the deaths, many women also risked their lives to do their part in the War effort, against an equally deadly adversary. Fortunately, the women, who served and gave their lives are recognized for their actions and put on the memorials next to their male compatriots. I would like to once more, thank James Nelson for so kindly lending me, such a valuable artifact from his Office's collection, his contributions helped immensely.