COVINGTON — Edward L. McCord, mayor of Covington, announced that an official representative of the Kingdom of Belgium will attend Covington’s Memorial Day Parade and participate in dedication ceremonies of Covington’s new World War I Memorial at Highland Cemetery in Covington on the afternoon of Monday, May 27.
McCord stated that “the Village of Covington, Ohio is honored that the Kingdom of Belgium will be represented at the parade and dedication ceremony, in recognition of the contribution and sacrifice that soldiers from Covington made on the battlefields in France and Belgium in 1918, which ultimately led to the liberation of occupied Belgium and the restoration of freedom for millions of its citizens in November of 1918.”
The WWI Memorial — which was sponsored by the Miami Valley Veterans Museum through contributions from Ohio veteran organizations, businesses, and other entities and citizens — was manufactured from bronze and American grey granite from Barre, Vermont by Edwin F. Nickol, Inc. of Versailles and erected at Highland Cemetery in Covington on May 1. The memorial project was spearheaded by two Covington High School graduates, David K. Frank and Jay Wackler.
Lieutenant Colonel Heidi Libert, a senior officer in the Belgian Armed Forces, Air Component, and graduate of the Belgium Royal Military Academy, will give a speech during the dedication ceremony and lay a wreath at the WWI Monument on behalf of the Kingdom of Belgium in honor and remembrance of the nearly 300 Covington-area servicemen who served in WWI, including soldiers, sailors, and marines.
Most of the servicemen were from Covington, but some of those to be honored were from Bradford, Piqua, Pleasant Hill, and Troy. Many of them fought with the U.S. Army’s 148th Infantry Regiment, 37th Buckeye Division, in battles in France and Belgium in 1918. A number of them were killed in action and many more were wounded. Those battles and efforts by Ohio soldiers in the 37th Division as well as other American forces and Belgian, British, and French troops ultimately led to the liberation of Belgium. That country, for a time, lost its freedom to occupation by the German Army which invaded neutral Belgium on August 4, 1914.
Atrocities by German troops in Belgium, including the burning of civilian homes, the execution of Belgian civilians, and the destruction of an ancient Belgian University and more than 300,000 of its priceless and irreplaceable medieval books and manuscripts, were among the factors which ultimately led the United States to enter the war in 1917 on the side of Belgium and its allies.
There is a direct historic connection between Belgium and Covington. Many of the Covington servicemen honored on the new monument were directly involved in the fight to liberate Belgium, including Major William L. Marlin (1882-1959), who commanded a battalion of the 148th Infantry Regiment, 37th Division, United States Army, during battles in Belgium in 1918.
At least nine servicemen from the Covington area were killed or died in military service during the war, including Orville Bazill, J. Lowell Boyer, Albert B. Cole, Lloyd W. Cornor, Oscar P. Kindell, Edward S. Knight, Arlie Carl Nicholas, Roscoe Rogers, and Fred Siler. At least fifteen others were wounded, most of whom served with the U.S. Army’s 148th Infantry Regiment.
Marlin, who was born in Covington and later rose to the rank of Major General in the U.S. Army, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross by the President of the United States for his extraordinary heroism in combat at Hearne, Belgium, on Nov. 1-2, 1918. After this battle, Marlin was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and was given the honor of commanding the American honor guard, which escorted Belgian King Albert I on the historic occasion of the King’s dramatic re-entry back into a liberated Belgium on Nov. 22, 1918. This occurred eleven days after the guns on the battlefields fell silent on Nov. 11, 1918.
Marlin is buried in Highland Cemetery in Covington, near other of Covington’s WWI heroes and near the place in the cemetery where the WWI Monument will be dedicated on Memorial Day, Monday, May 27, at approximately 1:30 p.m., immediately following Covington’s Memorial Day Parade which starts at 1 p.m.