World War I Memorial Tree planted at Herman Davis Park in Manila
Herman Davis Park in Manila was the site for a World War I Memorial Tree Planting ceremony held Sunday afternoon, March 4.
Herman Davis State Park surrounds the gravesite of, and monument to, Private Herman Davis, a World War I veteran. Davis grew up hunting in the Manila area and later the sharpeshooter became a scout in World War I.
Each Arkansas county was offered one memorial tree and Manila received the tree for Mississippi County.
The ceremony was co-coordinated by the Mississippi County Library System, Manila Depot Museum, and members of Herman Davis American Legion Post 197.
Donna Jackson welcomed everyone to the ceremony introducing several guests including Robert Quackenbush with the Arkansas Forestry Commission; Tammy Davenport with the office of Congressman Rick Crawford; Command Sergeant Major Michael Seaton and Capt. Scott Campbell with the 29th Infantry Division stationed at Ft. Belvoir, Vir., (the same company Pvt. Davis served in); Manila Mayor Wayne Wagner; Mississippi County Librarian Lowell Walters; Senator Dave Wallace; Representative Johnny Rye; and JoAnn Redman Allison (her grandmother, Anna Pearl, was a sister to Herman Davis).
Mississippi County Librarian Walters read a letter from Shawn Fisher, World War I Centennial Commemoration Committee chair, praising the World War I veterans and the 72,000 from Arkansas who fought.
The World War I Memorial Tree Project is the result of a partnership between the Arkansas World War I Centennial Commission Commemoration Committee and the Arkansas Forestry Commission with the purpose to encourage the remembrance of Arkansans who served, including the 2,183 who died while in service.
Greg Roll, historian of Herman Davis American Legion Post 197, gave a brief history of the short life of Pvt. Davis and his service in the military.
He talked about his growing up at Big Lake learning to shoot and serving as a guide.
“Davis returned home not talking about his service,” Roll said. “He was a quiet man, never bragging.”
His heroic service was not known until General John J. Pershing's list of 100 Greatest Heroes of the World War was released.
Davis was honored for his heroic actions on the battlefield during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive – most notably the taking of several German machine gun nests.
Among the medals Davis received were the Distinguished Service Cross, Croix de Guere, and Medaille Militaire awards from the American and French governments.
Command Sergeant Major Seaton and Capt. Campbell presented to Manila Post 197 a framed print #197 from the 29th Division deployment.
State Senator Dave Wallace, a retired Lt. Col., was the keynote speaker for the day.
He read a letter from Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson commending Pvt. Davis for his sacrifice and service that saved the lives of his fellow allied soldiers.
“As Governor I welcome all those gathered today for the important purpose of preserving history in the local community of Manila, Arkansas. Our state is proud to be the home of brave military veterans who have protected and served our nation over the years. One such veteran is Herman Davis. Davis was called by General John Pershing the fourth greatest hero of World War I, and it is with the outstanding recognition in mind we plant a tree to honor and keep his legacy alive.....”
“Freedom is not free,” Sen. Wallace said. “Someone has to pay. It is the American men and women who serve who pay the price. Pvt. Davis died from the results of war. He was one of us, a Buffalo Island boy. He was an unassuming man. He was a scout.”
Wallace talked about the scouts and how they went out before others and the important role they play in service.
“Herman Davis paid a price, as so many combat veterans have and are still paying the price,” Wallace said. “Courage does not mean you are not afraid. True courage means you are afraid and going into harm's way to protect your buddies and to complete your mission. Herman Davis saved lives.”
David was exposed to poison gas which resulted in his death soon after his return from service.
“We honor Herman Davis today, the bravest of the brave, and remember him.”
Mrs. Allison, a former Manila resident, presented a framed picture of Davis and a fellow soldier taken in Germany to the museum depot/city of Manila. She said to her knowledge it is the only copy and through the years the family heirloom ended in her possession. She said the museum will be a great place for it to be displayed.
Mrs. Jackson, member of the museum committee, thanked Mrs. Allison for the gift.
Quackenbush with the Arkansas Forestry Commission led the planting of the three year old willow oak tree. Assisting were Capt. Campbell and Command Sergeant Major Seaton, along with several local residents and members of Post 197.
Soil from the Meuse-Argonne National Cemetery in France was placed with the tree by Mrs. Allison to commemorate the occasion. This year 2018, marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
The ceremony began and ended with the Manila Boy Scout Troop 32 presenting the colors and the playing of Taps by Manila High School teacher Russell Page.
Everyone was invited to Post 197 for lunch.