The Veterans Memorial Park was started in 1993 in preparation of the
Moving Wall display. The park features many trees, flowers, park benches
and a circle of flagpoles. Over the years, additional memorial items
were added to the park including a miniature replica of the Washington
monument and a Korea-Vietnam M-60 A1 Tank. Guided tours available.
What is the Forty Et Eight?
La Societe des Quarante Hommes et Huit Chevaux, an independent fraternal organization of Veterans, popularly known as the FORTY ET EIGHT, was organized in 1920 as the fun and honor society of American Legionnaires. Now composed of Veterans of both World Wars, the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, it draws its origin from WW I when young Americans were sent to France to fight a war to end all wars. The narrow gauge railroads of France had boxcars (Voitures) that carried little more than half the capacity of American boxcars and these voitures were used to transport the men and horses to and from the fighting fronts. The capacity of each boxcar was stenciled on the side. Holding either forty men or eight horses these voitures became the trademark of the organization.
In February 1949, a merchant ship docked at Weehawhen, New Jersey to
deliver its cargo of 49 railroad boxcars that were marked on the side
"TRAIN DE LA RECONNAISSANCE FRANCAISE", and on the other side "GRATITUDE
TRAIN". These boxcars were laden with gifts from the French people in
gratitude and appreciation to the United States for the "Friendship
Train" which the French people received from the United States on
December 18, 1947. The "Friendship Train" which was loaded with carloads
of food, medicine and supplies was sent to France to help the people
recover after WWII. The "GRATITUDE TRAIN" boxcars were marked with
French letters "Hommes 40 (40 Men) and CHEVAUX 8 (8 Horses) indicating
the freight load of the boxcar.
The "GRATITUDE TRAIN" consisted
of forty-nine boxcars, one for each for the forty-eight states, and one
for the District of Columbia to be shared with the district of Hawaii.
Each car contained gifts, artwork, and treasured items from the people
of France. The Kansas boxcar first arrived in Topeka in June 1949 and
visited 120 communities before its last stop in Hays on November 11,
1949. A huge community celebration, parade and acceptance ceremony was
held in Hays on that Veterans Day.