“On November 11, 1918 World War I came to an end. The Great War they call it; the war to end all wars. On this day our remembrance day, we celebrate the end of that war but we also remember the thousands of men who fell in what they really believed was the war to end all wars.
Well unfortunately it was not the war to end all wars. We found ourselves in conflict many times since then. But we must keep the faith. We must believe that peace will come and that this will be the war to end all wars.”
The Johnny Cash Show S2 Ep 8
November 11, 1970
In 1914 British author H.G. Wells published a series of articles which would later be gathered into a book called The War That Will End War. His writing was a reaction to the seemingly impossible tragedy that was taking place at that moment. World War I – The Great War as it was called at the time – had just begun and the world had never seen a war that spanned both the Atlantic and Pacific and nearly every sea in between. Advances in weapons and delivery technology ensured that the devastation was on a scale hitherto unimaginable. As the war came to an end, Well’s desire was fervently shared by most; that there be no more war.
Unfortunately World War I was just one of the earliest of many crushing disappointments in the 20th century which eventually contributed to a wave of cynicism that swept the initial optimism of the new millennium out to sea. Yet in the face of many trials a spirit of resilience remained, more cautious for the wounds it had received but still ever hopeful of some brighter future.
In 1931 the Great Depression was preparing to enter a deflationary spiral that would last for years. Though wages held through the year (but only that year), unemployment was climbing rapidly and would continue to do so. In these sorts of conditions raising money for a civic pride and patriotism project would seem like a pipe dream, yet the will was evident. The Colonel George Moffett Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution resolved to erect a memorial to Texas servicemen and women of World War I. They drafted plans for the construction of a building in which to house a variety of donated artifacts and entrusted the funding of the project to the generosity of the community.
They were not disappointed. According to Museum Operator Dennis White, the initiative was so popular that even children would bring pennies in matchboxes to offer to the effort. By 1932 the structure was complete and was dedicated on October 19 as the Temple to the Brave.
The Temple is a wonderful surprise to see, a minimalist Gothic chapel surrounded by flowering trees. It sports the pointed arch and buttresses and made use of some of the same materials used in the construction of the Jefferson Courthouse. Over the years a series of renovations have been made to the Temple, repairing damage caused by time and sometimes vandalism and upgrading the facility for modern usage and artifact preservation with the inclusion of air conditioning.
The exhibitions inside the Temple are donations from the community that built it. Soldiers brought mementos and war trophies and collectors brought documents and letters. The stained glass windows were donated by a variety of businesses and organizations, and a leather bound Bible containing the names of all the donors who gave to the Temple was gifted by the Beaumont Ministerial Alliance.
Inside the glass display cases are weapons, helmets, flak jackets, medals, old photographs and other memorabilia which represent the collected and preserved experiences of soldiers who endured war; a snapshot of a moment in time of the life of an American serviceman or woman. On the walls are letters and flyers, posters and pictures of important people and events in the military over the past 100 years. Originally constructed to memorialize the first World War, the Temple now represents many more soldiers and many more conflicts and will continue to do so until the cannonballs are “forever banned.” When will that be? The answer – as it was in 1970 and 1963 and 1918 – is Blowin’ in the Wind.
The Temple to the Brave, located in Pipken Patriots Park in Beaumont, Texas, is open to the public several times a year. The next scheduled openings this year are Patriot Day on September 11, Veteran’s Day on November 11, and Pearl Harbor Day on December 7. Admission is free. For more information call Major Dennis White, (ret.) at 409-880-1713.