Anyone who knows me could tell you that am a victim of gephyrophobia, which in layman's terms in the fear of crossing bridges. So, it would be very unusual for me to feel sentimental about a bridge, but this one is a little different. If you live or have visited Dayton and have crossed the Ridge Avenue Bridge over the Stillwater River to get to Triangle Park, you will know the bridge of which I speak. This one is special because it was dedicated to Battery D, 134th Field Artillery, 37th Division, my grandfather's unit during his World War I service.
In 1927, when it became obvious that the previous bridge was no longer safe, the city began building a new bridge and a committee was formed that decided this bridge should be dedicated to Battery D. It might seem like an unusual decision, but Triangle Park was the temporary home to about 200 men who arrived on July 15, 1917 to be trained for service to their country. It was here that they stayed for about a month, preparing for their eventual move to Camp Sheridan in Alabama and more intense training before being sent to France and the War.
I first read about this bridge dedication in a series of articles about Battery D by the late Dayton Daily News writer, Roz Young. My mother had taken a great interest in the articles and Roz sent her a handwritten letter with copies of pages of the book she had referenced in the article. I didn't see this letter or the articles until many years after they had been written. When I saw a photograph of the memorial, I had to visit the park and the bridge and see them for myself. I wasn't disappointed.
At the exit of the bridge on Ridge Ave., located on the right side of the road, is located the granite marker; listing all 200 names of the men of Battery D.
A list of all the relevant dates of service and engagements of Battery D are included on the monument.
On the opposite side of Ridge Avenue sits this cannon, captured from the German army by the men of Battery D.
It gave me a great sense of pride to see his name engraved on that memorial.
Dayton is a city of many rivers and numerous bridges. Many are older and unsafe and during the last couple of years bridge replacement has become a priority. I would be lying if I said I wasn't concerned about the taking down of the Ridge Avenue Bridge and it's dedication to the men of Battery D. For most of those in the younger generations, World War I is something they see a little about in the history books and it doesn't have much meaning to them now. A few years ago, something hit the monument and severely damaged it. At the time, the city repaired it and placed it back on it's base. I sincerely hope that it will be kept in it's place if and when a new bridge is installed, but if recent history is any indication, that may not be the case.
So, today, I am being sentimental about a bridge and about the men who camped by the Stillwater river so many years ago.