State park rangers journey to France to honor Sgt. York’s memory for WWI commemoration
NASHVILLE –Tennessee State Park Rangers will travel to France to retrace the steps of Sgt. Alvin C. York – described as “the greatest civilian soldier” of World War I and namesake of the Fentress County state park – for the WWI centennial on Oct. 8. Rangers will be sharing their experiences through photos and videos on social media throughout the week of Oct. 3-8.
“We want to connect the Tennessee home of Sgt. York with the rest of the world as well as connect Tennesseans with the rich story of his actions abroad,” said Josh Waggener, Park Manager at Sgt. Alvin C. York State Historic Park, who will be one of the Rangers making the trip.
In period clothing, Rangers will chronicle their activities, including their departure from the U.S. East coast, their arrival near Paris, a look at the events that led up to York’s acts on Oct. 8, and a virtual guided hike along the York Trail in Chatel-Chehery, France. They’ll be joined at times by the Tennessee National Guard Adjutant General, a group of Tennessee Guardsmen as well as members of the York family.
“The three Rangers making the trip are Certified Interpretive Guides, just like all of our Tennessee State Park Rangers, and experts at demonstrating the rich history and cultural importance of Tennessee’s public lands,” said Jeff Wells, director of interpretive programming and education. “These Rangers represent the best Tennessee has to offer, much as Sgt. York did 100 years ago.”
While on patrol along the Meuse-Argonne Front in France on Oct. 8, 1918, York and 16 of his fellow soldiers were caught in an ambush behind German lines and suffered heavy casualties. Using his Tennessee sharp-shooting skills, York led the remaining members of his patrol against the German forces, capturing four officers and 128 soldiers.
York’s actions from this battle earned him more than 40 awards, including the Congressional Medal of Honor and the deed to a farm in Pall Mall. The property was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977 and became a state park in 1967, which includes a Visitors’ Center modeled after York’s general store, his two-story house, a gristmill, and the York Bible School.