In March of 1915, anyone who could read or hung around a telegraph office knew it was only a question of when America would stop Germany from overthrowing all of Europe. Most of this nation was rural, farm boys were accustomed to rough hard work.
Younger farm boys likely didn't recognize war as rough and hard. The thought of saving French farm girls from the evil German (yes, other words were used) was surely more pleasant to a youthful mind, when compared to stacking hot bricks or slaughtering chickens by hand.
My uncle was born in 1898. A tall lanky fellow with blonde hair, youthful exuberance and no end to energy had found work in a brick mill by that year. But the word was spreading fast across America that War was coming.
Joes’ mother had passed in '09, his sister (my grandmother), 19 months his senior had just married. Too many men in a house, maybe it was a chore, but one Saturday there was bread to be purchased and Joe was out to walk to the store some half mile away and return with store-bought bread.
Along the way, he was enlisted into the National Army of the United States and off for training in a grand scale, to face a war of hideous proportions.
During the 1918 Meuse-Argonne offensive in France, 100 yards to his right was an artillery Captain horrified at how the Germans maimed and stripped the American dead. A generation later that Captain, cum U.S. Senator (and later U.S. President) wrote of stacking the bodies of American dead sons, 5 across 4 high in piles like cord-wood to protect the dead from the German looters. My Uncle was one of the few survivors in what was described as "a cemetery of unburied dead." Those dead were from my Uncle Joe's Company, their loss forever seared into his mind.
An Army Regular, he was held back for other duties in France as the remains of Company D, 139th Infantry, 35th Division came home to victory parades and celebrations rarely equaled.
When my Uncle Joe returned a half year later, he arrived home quietly and unexpectedly, a newly minted man, but he returned with that loaf of fresh bread under his arm.
Saturday November 11, 2017 will recognize 99 years since the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month, when Germany laid down their arms, turned away and walked home.
Here and in Europe, there was still work to do. Much remains insecure to this day.
But on Saturday, we celebrate the life, energy and spirit of both men and women who have died to preserve our liberties. We celebrate the life of men and women who still today, suffer unspeakable horror for others need. They continue returning home; to keep promises of their own.