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Soldiers Memorial honoring a new generation
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Soldiers Memorial honoring a new generation

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Looking at names of St. Louisans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country on a memorial wall at Soldiers Memorial Military Museum. Photo provided by Soldiers Memorial

With our community under threat from COVID-19, Soldiers Memorial Military Museum temporarily closed its doors to the public on March 18, 2020. Additionally, all public programs at Soldiers Memorial were canceled through the end of May. At the time of this writing, it is unknown when Soldiers Memorial will reopen its doors. Unfortunately, this means Soldiers Memorial will not host an on-site Memorial Day ceremony this year. This is highly unfortunate because although Soldiers Memorial is an excellent museum, it is first and foremost the St. Louis community’s memorial to brave men and women who have made the supreme sacrifice in military service.

Photo provided by Soldiers Memorial

Soldiers Memorial Military Museum and the Court of Honor in downtown St. Louis. Photo provided by Soldiers Memorial

Completed in 1938, Soldiers Memorial Military Museum was erected to honor the men and women of St. Louis who gave their lives during the Great War, now known as World War I. Designed by Mauran, Russell & Crowell, a St. Louis architecture firm, and featuring classical and art-deco designs, Soldiers Memorial holds at its heart a black granite cenotaph engraved with the names of 1,072 St. Louisans who died in or because of World War I.

By 1941, a mere three years after Soldiers Memorial was opened, the U.S. was engaged in the Second World War, which brought with it even more sacrifice. The people of St. Louis recognized the need to memorialize those who lost their lives in World War II. In 1948, three years following the end of the war, the Court of Honor was created. Located immediately south of the original Soldiers Memorial building and completed in 1948, it individually recognizes 2,582 men and women who made the supreme sacrifice.

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The cenotaph at Soldiers Memorial is engraved with the names of St. Louisans who lost their lives in WWI in service to their country. The mosaic above honors the Gold Star Mothers. Photo provided by Soldiers Memorial

Soon after the end of World War II, the nation was again embroiled in war. In 1950, the U.S. entered the Korean War. Following the Korean War, the U.S. was engaged in the Vietnam War. These two hot wars were born of the prolonged Cold War. Following the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, St. Louisans once again recognized the need and desire to memorialize those who had lost their lives in these two wars. In 1979, the Court of Honor was expanded to memorialize the brave St. Louisans who had lost their lives in conflict by adding memorials for both the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

By the turn of the 21st Century, Soldiers Memorial had established its importance as both memorial and museum. The building and its Court of Honor had grown to be a standing testament to the men and women of St. Louis who fought for our freedom. However, it was showing its age and suffering from deferred maintenance. The Missouri Historical Society, in partnership with the City of St. Louis and enabled by an extremely generous donation, initiated major renovations in 2016. Reopened in 2018, the newly improved Soldiers Memorial included major enhancements, not only to the building but also to its Court of Honor.

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A black granite cenotaph in Soldiers Memorial's central loggia holds the names of 1,075 St. Louisans who made the ultimate sacrifice during the Great War. Photo provided by Soldiers Memorial

Perhaps most importantly, recent enhancements to the Court of Honor included the addition of a new memorial to honor St. Louisans who lost their lives in service since 1975. These individuals include those who gave their all in Desert Storm, Afghanistan and Iraq. Additionally, in recognition of the changing nature of warfare as well as the hazardous and stressful nature of military service, the memorial includes all who have given their life while in combat outside of defined periods or locations and those who have lost their lives in service outside of combat. This newest addition to the Court of Honor expands its longstanding importance as a St. Louis’ military memorial.

An unveiling ceremony for this new memorial was originally planned for Memorial Day 2020, but given the health and safety protocols put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ceremony has been postponed for a yet to be determined date.

To learn more about Soldiers Memorial Military Museum, and to see the list of individuals on the new memorial visit mohistory.org/memorial.

Soldiers Memorial Logo

This content was produced by Brand Ave. Studios in collaboration with Soldiers Memorial. The news and editorial departments of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch had no role in its creation or display. For more information about Brand Ave. Studios, contact tgriffin@stltoday.com

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