The Gen. John J. Pershing Boyhood Home and State Historic Site held a Blessing of the Poppies ceremony June 2 at 1 p.m.

The program brought soil from World War I battlegrounds to the newly opened WWI Commemorative Garden.

The Blessing of the Poppies Program began June 2 at 1 p.m. at the Gen. John J. Pershing Boyhood Home and State Historic Site. Canisters of World War I battle ground soil were delivered to the WWI Commemorative Garden, located at the state historic site, by Wright Funeral Home and the American Legion Riders from Bucklin. The program continued with soil from each canister being poured into a WWI helmet. Later, the soil will be planted in the WWI Commemorative Garden.

Several speakers were featured throughout the program. Rear Adm. Stanton Thompson was invited to read the poem “Lost at Sea Prayer.” Following Thompson, Brig. Gen. Larry Kay addressed the attendees and read a poem written by his grandfather during WWI. Later, bestselling author Andrew Carroll spoke to the audience about his work with letters written during American conflicts. Carroll donated letters originally written by Pershing to the state historic site’s Pershing museum. A Gen. John J. Pershing impersonator, portrayed by David Shuey, was also present at the event addressing the audience as Pershing.

According to Gen. John J. Pershing Boyhood Home and State Historic Site administrator Denzil Heaney, the amount of support was great.

“So many groups and organizations wanted to be a part of this ceremony, we opened up to allow them all,” Heaney said. “It was great to see so many veterans organizations coming together.”

Veterans of Foreign Wars Missouri State Surgeon Troy Williams attended the program Saturday. Williams heard about the program from his wife. She toured the property on behalf of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources previously. The pair came from Jefferson City, Mo. and enjoyed their time at the state historic site.

Williams says the impact of the event was exceptional.

“The idea of being able to bring a piece of each battlefield back to this area is an amazing story,” Williams said.

Packets of poppy seeds were given out during the program Saturday. The poppy is often used in remembrance of WWI. The poppy seeds were provided by the Missouri State Parks to all attendees.

Heaney says the poppy has many meanings for veterans.

“The poppy stands for war, service and sacrifice,” Heaney said.

A free screening of the Pershing documentary “Black Jack Pershing: Love and War,” was shown June 3 at Reel Time Cinema in Brookfield. Producer and director of the film Bernard McCoy held a Q&A after the screening.

McCoy has been working on the film for five years. McCoy and a team of volunteers gathered information from the U.S. National Archives about the life of Pershing. The effort by McCoy is to tell a more personal side of Pershing’s story.

McCoy says people do not know Pershing as anything other than a general.

“Pershing was very humble man,” McCoy said. “The things, which stand out most to me were his love for his country and the love he had for his family. He put those things before himself.”

The documentary has won the Sigma Delta Chi Journalism Award for best Documentary. The documentary is currently in the running for other national and international awards. McCoy has shown the documentary in Washington D.C. and is taking the film around the country to do more screenings and Q&As. “Black Jack Pershing: Love and War,” is also available to stream on Amazon.

The next event at the state historic site will be the formal dedication of the WWI Commemorative Garden Sept. 15. The formal dedication will be the same weekend as Pershing Days. Last year more than 4,000 people came to Laclede for Pershing Days, Heaney hopes to bring even more people this year.

Heaney says the next celebration will be even bigger.

“We’re expecting a very big celebration for the day,” Heaney said. “I’ve spoken to many people who’ve said they are coming and bringing more people with them.”