“Ready”… a title befitting the East Hartford, CT Doughboy

Published: 16 February 2024

By Steven Strange
Special to the Doughboy Foundation website

Ready 1

The Town of East Hartford, Raymond Library, the Rochambeau-Elms Post 2083 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, East Hartford Veterans Commission, and the Historical Society of East Hartford have since 2018, had a wreath laying ceremony to commemorate the signing of the armistice on November 11, 1918, that ended World War I. The monument was restored in the summer of 2018 by a special monument restorer who had done work both nationally and internationally. It was ready about two weeks before the ceremony. The restorer has a contract to examine the monument every three years to protect it from the elements.

This now-annual ceremony is held not only to pay tribute to those East Hartford volunteers who went off to fight in the “war to end all wars”, but to those who are serving and have served in many capacities in our armed forces whether on land, sea, or in the air. The tablet on the front of the monument expresses the gratitude of the citizens of East Hartford: “In honor of the men and women of East Hartford who answered their country’s call to service in the First World War: To the dead a tribute, to the living a memory, to posterity a token of loyalty to the flag of their country”.

The attendees are all given a copy of the program which fundamentally does not change from year to year except for honored guest speakers and the musician who plays revelry and taps. The commemoration ceremony begins with the presentation of the Stars and Stripes with 48 stars, as that was the number of states in 1918. The Historical Society of East Hartford has an original 48-star flag which it has loaned to the Rochambeau-Elms Post 2083 of the VFW. The local VFW honor guard presents The Colors, followed by a recitation of the original 1892 Pledge of Allegiance which is printed in the program for audience participation. Then the trumpeter plays Revelry.

After revelry, a prayer of invocation is offered either by the Chaplain of the Rochambeau-Elms VFW Post 2083 or a local minister, priest or rabbi.

Following the invocation, a history of our beloved “Ready” is read to the public.

The history of the Doughboy monument called Ready begins in 1929 when the citizens and children of East Hartford collected the necessary funds to acquire the bronze sculpture and to have it placed on a granite pedestal in a prominent place for all to see where it remains after 94 years. It was erected on October 5, 1929, with not only much solemnity but fanfare.

Sculptor John Paulding

The original cost of Ready was $7,000, quite a substantial sum in those days; if the statue were to be erected in 2024 the cost would be over $85,000. The sculptor was John Paulding of Chicago, Illinois, and William Allenwood Murphy of Hartford was the construction contractor.

Ready was cast by the American Art Bronze Foundry in Chicago, while the tablets on the base are from the Eagle Bronze Works in Jamestown, New York.

Ready was restored in 2018 after a long period of neglect. The restoration included filling in some holes created by exposure to the elements. It was subsequently given a wax coating to protect the surface which was worn down and could develop holes due to weather conditions. A wax coating will be done every two to five years to protect the bronze.

Periodic maintenance work.

At the 2018 rededication ceremony, the Restoration Committee managed to find one of the three children who participated in the 1929 ceremony. The child was three at the time and had just turned 92. Needless to say, she was the star of the event, and was presented with a lovely bouquet of flowers, and a photograph of her at the original 1929 ceremony, a photograph that she had never seen.

Red poppies have become intimately associated with World War I and the VFW. During the war, many soldiers tore up fields and forests, tearing up trees and plants and wreaking havoc on the soil beneath. But in the warm early Spring of 1915, these red flowers, classified as weeds, began to peak through the battle-scarred landscape. The VFW always distributes poppies to the attendees.

Perhaps the most poignant poem written during World War I is entitled In Flanders Fields. Here a member of the community reads for the public the memorable verses of the poem. The author, John McCrae, died in the last year of the war.

The 18 volunteers whose names appear on the monument are now read by the local VFW Commander. After all the names are read, including 6 that are not included on the plaque, there is a tolling of the bells 24 times in the belfry of the First Congregational Church across the street. The last toll is in memory of all veterans who sacrificed their lives for our democratic, constitutional republic.

After the tolling of the bells, a wreath, donated by a local business is placed at the Doughboy monument by representatives of local and state government, and veterans. After the laying of the wreath, taps is played, after which there is a moment of silence.

There are now closing remarks from local and state officials; followed by a closing prayer by either the VFW chaplain, a local minister, priest, or rabbi.

The master of ceremonies then thanks everyone for attending and participating in the commemoration, saying that our beloved Ready will continue to remind us to appreciate the sacrifices of all veterans and active-duty men and women in our military and their families who for some 247 years, have kept our nation strong and safe. Long live E Pluribus Unum. Stay well, be safe, and prosper.

Local television stations come to the event to interview guests, dignitaries, and the general public. Fragments of the ceremony are seen on local television throughout the state.

We are currently planning for the 2024 ceremony. It is always well attended with members of the community, veterans, and dignitaries from local and state government. Maybe this year, we can encourage one of our Senators or Representative to join us.

Photos courtesy WWI Doughboy of East Hartford friends Facebook page.

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