Centerpiece of the National World War I Memorial to Be Delivered to Washington, DC

Photo Credit: DANIEL SLIM / AFP / Getty Images
Photo Credit: DANIEL SLIM / AFP / Getty Images

Almost a decade in the making, the centerpiece of the National World War I Memorial is finally slated to arrive in Washington, DC. The 58-foot-long, 10-foot-tall bronze sculpture, called “A Soldier’s Journey,” will call Pennsylvania Avenue’s Pershing Park home.

Bust of what eventually became "A Soldier's Journey"
Photo Credit: Officer Candidate Nathan Rivard / Joint Force Headquarters – Vermont National Guard Public Affairs / DVIDS / Public Domain

“A Soldier’s Journey” commemorates the sacrifice made by the troops who fought for the United States in the Great War. The 38 life-like figures that make up the monument tell the full story of a soldier’s service in the conflict, from their deployment, all the way to their return home.

The massive memorial was sculpted by a team that spanned both sides of the Atlantic. A team based out of New Jersey worked on the concept, using live models and thousands of photographs to give each sculpture a realistic appearance. The Pangolin Editions foundry in Gloucestershire, United Kingdom, created the bronze castings used to put it all together.

The project was completed in late June 2024.

View of the area where "A Soldier's Journey" will be installed at the National World War I Memorial
Photo Credit: APK / Wikimedia Commons CC BY 4.0

“I came into this project not really aware of the sacredness of [World War I] and how big it was,” sculptor Sabin Howard told Task & Purpose in a 2024 news article. “I’m a different human being than when I started it. This project really brings a human, visceral quality to WW I, rather than just a didactic history book look at it.”

He said in a 2022 interview with Smithsonian Magazine, “I’m hoping to make something that lets a kid, when he’s walking along the wall, experience it like it’s a movie in bronze. The scenes are changing. And the kid goes home and he’s like, ‘Oh my God, I got to see what World War I was all about.’ And he gets the idea that we’re on a journey – each and every one of us.”

Comprising four sections, “A Soldier’s Journey” will be shipped to Baltimore, Maryland, the week of July 7-13, 2024. It will then be transported to Washington, DC. The official dedication ceremony will take place this coming September, with the monument serving as the centerpiece of National World War I Memorial.

Close-up of the bust that eventually became "A Soldier's Journey"
Photo Credit: Officer Candidate Nathan Rivard / Joint Force Headquarters – Vermont National Guard Public Affairs / DVIDS / Public Domain

Production of “A Soldier’s Journey” began following a 2015 competition by the World War I Centennial Commission. Arkansas-based architect Joe Weishaar won, with the commission praising his design for being “an appropriately solemn war memorial” and “an inviting, well-functioning, living, breathing city park.” He subsequently partnered with Howard.

As the National Park Service (NPS) explains, the monument is split into five scenes, each telling a different part of the story of a soldier’s service during the First World War:

  • Departure – Soldier says goodbye to his wife and daughter, with the former wishing he would stay.
  • Initiation – Soldier marches toward the frontlines with other troops, as the United States has joined the conflict.
  • Ordeal – Group of soldiers charge into combat.
  • Aftermath – Visual representation of the impact the war had on soldiers, both physically and mentally.
  • Return – Soldier participates in a homecoming parade, joined by servicemen who are happy to be home.
Close-up of the bust that eventually became "A Soldier's Journey"
Photo Credit: Officer Candidate Nathan Rivard / Joint Force Headquarters – Vermont National Guard Public Affairs / DVIDS / Public Domain

More from us: Volunteers Requesting Help to Save World War II-Era Liberty Ship SS John W. Brown

The National World War I Memorial officially opened to the public in April 2021, after years of work. It is Washington, DC’s first official site dedicated to the conflict.

Clare Fitzgerald

Clare Fitzgerald is a Writer and Editor with eight years of experience in the online content sphere. Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from King’s University College at Western University, her portfolio includes coverage of digital media, current affairs, history and true crime.

Among her accomplishments are being the Founder of the true crime blog, Stories of the Unsolved, which garners between 400,000 and 500,000 views annually, and a contributor for John Lordan’s Seriously Mysterious podcast. Prior to its hiatus, she also served as the Head of Content for UK YouTube publication, TenEighty Magazine.

In her spare time, Clare likes to play Pokemon GO and re-watch Heartland over and over (and over) again. She’ll also rave about her three Maltese dogs whenever she gets the chance.

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