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'Forgotten forest' is memorial to war vets

January 21, 2002

'Forgotten forest' is memorial to war vets



By DAN KULIN

dank@herald-mail.com

The World War II Memorial Forest is only marked by the smattering of hemlock trees in the woods around the Edgemont reservoir near Smithsburg.

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The trees most likely grew from seeds thrown from an airplane that buzzed the watershed during a dedication ceremony there as Allied armies converged on Berlin on April 21, 1945.

That day, Washington County and Hagerstown officials designated the area the Memorial Forest, in honor of the fighting men and women in the ongoing war. Fred Wishard, still on crutches from wounds he received in the Battle of the Bulge, accepted the designation on behalf of the servicemen.

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But no marble monument was unveiled. There was no bronze plaque, no sign proclaiming the woods a memorial.

The only signs of the Memorial Forest are the hemlock trees that grow today in the heart of the forest around the reservoir, said Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner.

It's no wonder many people probably forgot or never knew the woods have added meaning.

Much of the forest around the reservoir, and the reservoir itself, are owned by the City of Hagerstown. Breichner said he knew of the special designation from his years with the city Water Department.

But he too, thinks many are unaware of the Memorial Forest.

"Nobody knows anything about it. It's just another thing that's been forgotten," said Wishard, now 77.

But people should remember, Wishard said.

"They ought to be reminded of a lot of things," Wishard said.

"It's a memorial to the veterans from Washington County. It was important. It was an honor," he said.

Speener Hose, a World War II veteran and commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1936 in Hagerstown, said he's "heard talk about the Memorial Forest" but thinks many people don't know about it.

"People don't really know what went on," Hose said. "They should know."

Robert Everhart is a Korean War veteran who has been active in local veterans' organizations for more than 20 years. He helped form and was the first president of the Joint Veterans Council of Washington County. Everhart counts himself among those who didn't know about the Memorial Forest.

"I can't find anyone who knows anything about it," Everhart said.

But it is important that people find out about the memorial "because it was (done) out of respect for the veterans," Everhart said.

"It's important to respect them ... and not forget why we still have the freedoms we have," he said.

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