On June 28, 1914, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire in Sarajevo, Serbia set off a cascading chain of events that would eventually sink the world into war, with Arkansas being no exception. On April 6, 1917, no longer able to maintain neutrality in the now global conflict, the U.S. Congress declared war on Germany, and entered into an alliance with Great Britain and France.
The war would not reach its official end until June 28, 1919, with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.
On April 6, 2018, 101 years to the day after the entry of the U.S. into the war, officials from the Arkansas National Guard, American Legion Post #74, Arkansas WWI Centennial Commemoration Committee, and the office of Pulaski County Judge Barry Hyde gathered at Camp Robinson to dedicate a willow tree to the memory of the estimated 2,183 Arkansans who died in what was known for two decades as “The Great War,” but became known as World War I when the world was plunged back into open conflict in 1939.
Due to a weather forecast that forced the tree dedication indoors, officials met a day earlier on the Chapel grounds at Camp Robinson to plant the tree. The Arkansas WWI Centennial Commission originally set out to provide at least one tree to each of Arkansas’ 75 counties, with the first tree for Pulaski County going to MacArthur Park in Little Rock.
“The Judge (Pulaski County Judge Barry Hyde) kind of pushed for us to get this tree because he said it was important to have a tree at Camp Robinson,” said Fredrick Love, the director of community services for Pulaski County. “So the judge pushed and pushed and we talked to the Arkansas Forestry Commission and were able to get the tree for Camp Robinson.”
R.D. Kinsey, a member of American Legion Post 74, said Post 74 assisted with efforts to get the tree located at Camp Robinson.
“We’ve worked in partnership with Pulaski County and Judge Hyde for a number of years, particularly since he’s been in office, and we’re very actively involved in the veteran’s community,” Kinsey said. “Being a service organization, the judge felt like it would be appropriate that Post 74 would be engaged in this process also.”
Major General Mark Berry, Adjutant General of the Arkansas Army National Guard, said planting the tree was a way of honoring the sacrifices of an earlier generation of warriors.
“Those who have come before us have made this way of life possible for us to enjoy, and so we honor their sacrifice through remembrances such as these, and through sacrifice of our own to make sure this way of life endures for future generations,” Berry said.