Fort McCoy News September 25, 2015

Commemorative Area showcases post's past

On a day in late June 1995, the Fort McCoy Commemorative Area formally was dedicated as a World War II Commemorative Area. In the 20 years since, the area has grown considerably. Today it serves to commemorate not only the installation's involvement in World War II, but the entirety of Fort McCoy's 100-plus years of history.

The work to establish the Commemorative Area began in 1992 during the 50th anniversary of World War II, said Fort McCoy Public Affairs Officer Linda Fournier, who has been responsible for the Commemorative Area since its inception. Camp McCoy, like many other military reservations, grew significantly during the World War II era. As a result of this expansion and the construction of the cantonment area, much of what Fort McCoy looks like today is a result of changes that occurred during that war.

Photo 1
Flags fly at half-staff in observance
of Patriot Day Sept. 11 at Veterans
Memorial Plaza at Fort McCoy.
Photos
by Scott T. Sturkol

"At the time of the 50th anniversary of World War II, Fort McCoy, like many installations of that era, was in the process of demolishing or significantly renovating its World War II-era wood structures," said Fournier.

"We felt it was important to our heritage to retain for the future a few of these buildings as the work to modernization and upgrade the cantonment area increased," she said.

"It was deemed appropriate by the Command Group that it was significantly important to retain a few of these structures as a representation of our past," Fournier said. "At the time, Fort McCoy had one of the largest remaining inventories of World War II-era facilities anywhere, and DOD (Department of Defense) was supportive of Fort McCoy's efforts to set aside a collection of such structures as part of our World War II commemoration. Fort McCoy was one of the first installations to do so."

Between 1992 and 1995, five adjoining World War II troop buildings — three barracks, a "mess hall" facility, and an administrative building — in the 900 block of the cantonment area permanently were set aside for commemoration purposes. Since then, this area has grown into a 10-acre site that now includes an Equipment Park, Veterans Memorial Plaza, and the History Center. With the expansion, the site was re-designated as the Fort McCoy Commemorative Area since it serves to tell the entire history of Fort McCoy from its founding in 1909 to the present day, Fournier said.

The adjacent Equipment Park also was established in the mid-1990s to complement the Commemorative Area buildings. What began as an initial outdoor display of five pieces of equipment ("macro-artifacts") also has increased over time to what is today a display of 70 different end items.

"All of the items on display in the Equipment Park specifically were selected in keeping with our Commemorative Area mission statement: to present pieces of military equipment that are representative of what was used here on Fort McCoy," Fournier said. Fournier noted that the most-recent acquisitions were added in 2014, and the site now has the planned expansion capacity that will accommodate up to an additional 50 display items.

The Fort McCoy History Center, the next component added to the Commemorative Area, opened in 1999, during the installation's 90th anniversary. The center features exhibits and displays of artifacts, photographs and period memorabilia. The History Center serves to tell the story of Fort McCoy based on the military personnel who trained here and the civilian workforce who supported the service personnel who passed through the installation.

Photo 2
Photographs and artifacts that chronicle Fort McCoy's heritage can be found throughout the center. Bonus photo, not in print edition.

The final piece of the Commemorative Area was to build Fort McCoy Veterans Memorial Plaza to honor all who have served. Construction on this memorial began in 2006, as did the work to create five Soldier statues representative of each of the major conflicts that Fort McCoy had been involved with to that point in time: i.e., World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the war on terrorism. The formal dedication of Veterans Memorial Plaza was June 13, 2009, the date of Fort McCoy's 100th anniversary. Several descendants of the installation's founder, Maj. Gen. Robert B. McCoy, attended this dedication, Fournier said. The dedication was the key event in a series of activities held during Fort McCoy's yearlong centennial observance.

"Everyone involved with the day-to-day operation of the Commemorative Area works hard to ensure the site is maintained in a condition reflective of how any memorial site should be kept," Fournier said.

The Commemorative Area is one of the most-visited places within the entire cantonment area, Fournier noted, especially by military personnel here for training.

"The visual image we strive to project to every visitor is one of professionalism and an appreciation for the sacrifice of those who have served our nation," Fournier said. "Our commitment is to maintain the Commemorative Area in a manner that clearly conveys the impression that the staff here is truly proud of our heritage."

The Fort McCoy Commemorative Area is managed by the garrison Public Affairs Office as a community-outreach program. This unique approach was recognized as a best practice when it received a Department of the Army Award of Excellence in the 2009 Maj. Gen. Keith L. Ware Public Affairs Communications Competition. The mission of the Public Affairs Office is to tell the Fort McCoy story to a variety of internal and external audiences, Fournier said. The Commemorative Area perfectly complements many of the programs the Public Affairs Office administers to educate and inform others of the Fort McCoy mission. The Commemorative Area is the location of the annual Fort McCoy Armed Forces Day Open House and is the area is used by the Public Affairs Office as part of its installation group tour program.

Photo 3
Fort McCoy Public Affairs Officer Linda Fournier and a visitor walk past
several of the World War II-era buildings set up in the Fort McCoy Commemorative Area.
Bonus photo, not in print edition.

Fournier commented that all the hard work put forth by her and others has been well worth it based on the many very favorable comments made by visitors each year.

"The pride that I have in having been a part of the Commemorative Area is based on what Fort McCoy is all about," she said.

"I always viewed the Commemorative Area as being a reflection of the pride that our workforce has in what we do here at Fort McCoy, that it is a tremendous legacy of service to our armed forces by all the generations who have had the privilege to have worked here," she said. "It has been a distinct honor for me to have been a part of the Commemorative Area these past 20 years, and it was a responsibility that I always took seriously when I was given the task to establish and maintain this area."

Fort McCoy Deputy to the Garrison Commander Albert R. Fournier, who has served at this installation for 44 years, said the Commemorative Area is a very special place of honor and therefore should be continued as such for years to come.

"Fort McCoy has a very unique and distinguished history of service to our nation," he said. "The Commemorative Area was established to preserve that legacy for future generations."

For more information about the Commemorative Area, contact the Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office at 608-388-2407, by email at usarmy.mccoy.imcom-central.list.pao-admin@mail.mil, or go online to see the Commemorative Area section in the Fort McCoy Guide at http://www.mccoy.army.mil/ReadingRoom/Newspaper/AreaGuide/commemorative.html.

See related article about the History Center's renovation.