A Soldier's Journey
This memorial's central sculpture, A Soldier's Journey, depicts scenes based on the archetypal myth of "the hero's journey," in which the hero embarks on a quest, wins victory in an epic struggle, and comes home changed by his passage through peril. The work depicts the journey of a recurring figure, an American soldier, and also represents the American experience of World War I.
In the departure, the soldier's daughter hands him his helmet, while his wife touches him with a restraining arm, as if to hold him back as he answers the call to battle — representing the debate over American involvement in the war. In the initiation, the soldier joins the parade to war, as the United States joins the epic battle in Europe.
The parade, and the work as a whole, includes African Americans and other ethnic groups who answered their country's call.
In the middle scene, the ordeal, the parade devolves into tension before the charge and then the tumult of desperate and violent combat. At the center our hero calls his comrades into battle, illustrating the famous American battle cry from Belleau Wood:
The aftermath depict the physical and mental wounds of the fighters. Here are represented American women who served at home and on the fighting front. And here the turbulent, left-to-right narrative pauses, as the hero stops and looks directly at the viewer. The soldier's look of shock and loss — the thousand-yard stare — along with the empty helmets piled at his feet, invite the viewer to stop and contemplate with him the costs of war.
In the return, the soldier rejoins the homecoming parade. One figure looks back with pride, while a flag-bearer leads the country forward into "the American century." Our soldier returns home and hands his helmet back to his daughter. She looks into the helmet and sees World War II, the war that will bring America back to Europe a little more than twenty years later.
"you have seen many of your comrades make the supreme sacrifice that freedom may live.... Your deeds will live forever on the most glorious pages of America's history.
General John J. Pershing, November 12, 1918
Erected 2021 by World War I Centennial Commission, American Battle Monuments Commission.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African Americans • Arts, Letters, Music • War, World I • Women. A significant historical date for this entry is November 12, 1918.
Location. 38° 53.765′ N, 77° 1.961′ W. Marker is in Federal Triangle in Washington, District of Columbia. Marker is on Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest just west of 14th Street Northwest, in the median. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1400 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington DC 20004, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Armistice and Legacy (here, next to this marker); World War I Remembered (here, next to this marker); Americans All (here, next to this marker); From Homefront to Battlefront (here, next to this marker); The AEF in the Great War, 1917-1918 (here, next to this marker); Beyond the AEF (here, next to this marker); World War I Memorial (here, next to this marker); World War I, 1914-1917 (here, next to this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Federal Triangle.
Credits. This page was last revised on July 21, 2021. It was originally submitted on April 18, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 102 times since then and 23 times this year. Photos: 1. submitted on April 18, 2021, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. 2. submitted on July 21, 2021, by Ray Gurganus of Washington, District of Columbia.