Nameless. Often indistinguishable from the others.
In theory, that's how soldiers fight, are taught to fight, or are seen by their enemies. Just after World War I, we began to honor those who served in the Great War with a statue of a bronze soldier called "The Doughboy." High upon a pedestal, he dons the uniform of a U.S. infantryman supplied with a rifle in one hand and a grenade held high above his head in the other. His stance is one of potential motion, as if he were about to make one last charge from the trench in which he fought.
These statues dot the nation's landscape in many small American towns. The National Registry of Historic Places lists 159 communities across the country that boast their own Doughboy. However common their existence, their placement is often unique. Doughboys stand in cemeteries, town squares and parks, among other places.
Alton's soldier has traveled an interesting path to rest where he does now, and his journey follows that of American soldiers who served overseas after that war to end all wars.
He was originally erected by the East End Improvement Association and dedicated on Memorial Day, 1922, at the intersection of Fifth and Henry streets. There he stood tall in the middle of town overlooking Broadway and the bustling Mississippi. The city grew and prospered around him. In 1942, just after the outbreak of World War II, he was moved to Riverside Park, now Riverfront. The park was a more public and open space. Coincidentally, the move mirrored our efforts abroad as that war had taken on a more global purpose. Decades passed before we sent brave American men to fight in the jungles of Vietnam. All the while at Riverside, vandals hit the statue, stealing his gun and defacing his facade. The Doughboy was vandalized, just like many returning soldiers were vilified by the very people they were sworn to protect. Finally, in 1975, as that divisive war was coming to an end, the city brought the statue home, so to speak. He now stands alongside VFW Post 1308 on Alby Street. His view isn't the greatest, but he is with his fellow veterans.
Maybe that's the point. American soldiers don't sign up to fight for the country so they will be honored or put on a pedestal. They fight for the safety of their fellow citizens. They fight for freedom. They fight for one another. They fight to come home.