Brunswick, MD is a small town that has a long history of support for America’s veterans. From the American flags that hang from dozens of local houses, to the “Welcome Home” billboard that greets returning soldiers at the main circle downtown*, to the annual Veteran’s Day Parade that draws thousands of visitors from near and far, Brunswick is a community that honors their veterans in word and deed.
Starting in 1921, Veteran’s Memorial Park was first built in Brunswick on East A St. by veterans of World War I, originally with a howitzer cannon from that war as a centerpiece. A bed of poppy flowers was planted in 1925 to further honor the veterans of the Great War, then a decorative lamp post was added in 1931 as a solemn memorial for John Steadman, who was killed in the action and for which the local Americam Legion “Steadman-Keenan” Post gets the first part of its name.
In 1943, when America was deeply involved in WWII, Brunswick answered the call for much needed scrap metal by giving up the monumental howitzer. Fulfilling their promise to return a tank to Brunswick as a replacement monument after victory had been achieved, the U.S. Department of Defense delivered the M-5 “J.E.B. Stuart” tank on August 31, 1946. These 14 ton light reconnaissance tanks carried a crew of four: a commander, a gunner and two drivers. The tank got its nickname from the British forces who were some of the first to use this model in combat through the Lend-Lease program. The tanks first saw action under the British against the German and Italian forces in North Africa, and were later used for infantry support and reconnaissance in Europe while heavier tanks engaged the German panzers. The Stuart was also used extensively by the Marines in the Pacific, where its lighter weight, speed and maneuverability was an asset on the rough, compact terrain of the Pacific islands. Here is a short video of a working Stuart still in action.
Over the years, the widening of A Street and lack of up keep took its toll on Veteran’s MemorialPark, and the tank slowly grew brown with rust. In 2009, after a two year community effortinitiated by the local chapter of Veterans of Foreign Wars, the park received a makeover with new landscaping, a new memorial and a repainted tank. The poppy flower bed was replanted and a new lamp post was installed for the Steadman memorial. A large, steel cased book donated by the local chapter of the Fraternal Order of the Eagles was refurbished, and it contains the names of community members who served during WWI or II. The veterans of the Brunswick area are honored through names inscribed in bricks along the walk. At the east side of the park, a granite inscription preserves the park’s history and purpose for future generations: “Dedicated to veterans who served our country in peace and war”.
Finally, new bronze sculpture depicting the fallen soldier’s battle cross was installed tribute to those of Brunswick area who gave their all. Clustered around the lonely helmet, rifle and boots of are the names of 46 local citizens who fell in battle, including the most recent: pioneering female pilot CPT Jennifer Shafer Odom, a Brunswick High School and West Point graduate who was killed in action in July of 1999 during controversial anti-narcotic intelligence gathering mission over the mountains of Columbia, South America.
While Veteran’s Memorial Park in Brunswick may not be the most grandiose monument to those who have served our country, the little-known park with it’s well designed landscaping, repainted tank and memorial to the fallen make it a serious statement of this community’s respect for veterans of all wars. The park is just a couple of blocks walk from the main part of old-town Brunswick and is easily accessible for bike tourists along the C&O Canal.
* Originally published 12/24/11 on Want2Dish Frederick.