Veteran’s Day

November 15, 2018

Before we know it, we will be enjoying Thanksgiving dinner. A relatively early Turkey Day gives us all the illusion of having more time until Christmas than we truly do. Enjoy the feeling. There is never enough time.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I considered reaffirming my immense dislike of Brussels sprouts this week, and even considered a drive to ban them from all big holiday dinners but thought better of it. And then I realized that hidden between the hoopla of Election day, the impending white tail hunt and the prospects of turkey dinner, was November 11, Veteran’s Day, a far more worthy topic.

Julie Traynor Postcards from the Pine Columnist

Julie Traynor Postcards from the Pine Columnist

Veteran’s, or Armistice Day, was designated as the day to remember those fallen during the course of the Great War, which ceased on November 11, 1918. Just 100 years ago on Sunday just passed, the world marked the end of the Great War; also called the ‘war to end all wars’…until the next one came along some twenty years later. Somewhere along the line things went astray.
We all have veterans in our families and among our ancestors. The Gardener’s great uncle, his grandfather’s brother, was an 18 year old Army recruit at the beginning of America’s involvement, gained the distinction which no family wishes for their son. Pvt. Oakley O. Traynor became the first soldier from Genesee County to perish in the Great War. To this day an American Legion Post bears his name. It is also carried on in the family, another Oakley to arrive soon.

My mother’s uncle, my grandfather’s younger brother, Charlie Ward, was called into service closer to the end of WWI from his home township of Deerfield, in Isabella County. Charlie boarded a train for Camp Custer in Battle Creek for basic training, where he became part of a company of mechanics. He was sent to France via ship and spent much of his time near Paris. He sent postcards and other souvenirs home to his mother, asking her to keep each for him. She did, as well as his letters to her.
PFC Ward was caught in an attack of the infamous mustard gas on the field and was sent home to recoup, which he did. He also claimed his mementos and locked them away in a metal box, key attached. He put this away with the family history and photographs and lived a long life, often talking about his days in the Great War, and a certain French mademoiselle who took a piece of his heart. He wondered often of her fate as the years passed. This became his patient wife’s cross to bear. Long after the Armistice and a successful life as a builder, his service to his country remained the greatest thing Charlie had ever done. Contributing to his death, other than his near 90 years, was his long ago exposure to mustard gas on the battlefields of France.

On Thanksgiving Day we will also remember a veteran of WWII, John F. Kennedy, the assassinated President who fell on this date 55 years ago, November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas. For many of my generation this is the date for which we do not have to stop and think of what we were doing or where we were when we heard the unthinkable news. Our President had been shot and killed. It was unthinkable and the first such world shaking incident for many kids of my generation. It was our ‘I will never forget…’ moment.

Many horrible things have happened in the world, before and since Kennedy. His death wasn’t even a high water mark for evil in the 20th century. This century also hosted two World Wars, the dropping of the atomic bomb, Korea, and the atrocity of Vietnam.   

I often wonder what is in store for us in this century; one which began with the horrors of September 11, 2001…an ‘I will always remember’ moment for yet another generation of kids, no matter how old they may be.

Charlie Ward’s war mementoes...from dog tags to rose petals.

Charlie Ward’s war mementoes…from dog tags to rose petals.

Having no children, other than of the four-legged and furry variety, Charlie Ward left me his chest of treasured items. This included the locked metal box containing his WWI mementos and the family history items. In the box is a small, 2”x4”, brown cloth book, a kind of greeting card, of only a few pages. Titled ‘The American Soldier’s Creed’, it was given to PFC Ward at Christmas 1917 by a lady friend. Some lines from the Creed certainly echo today.

I BELIEVE in my America as the land of individual liberty, of justice, and of common opportunity: the land that gave me home and friends and work….

I BELIEVE that national honor is as real as personal honor, and that neither can long exist without the other; that there cannot be neutrality between Right and Wrong; that America fights for her national honor, her national rights and her national existence as a free Democracy…..

I BELIEVE in fighting for right and home and country, for wife and children and friends, not for Revenge or Conquest but for Justice and permanent Peace.

I BELIEVE in the Stars and Stripes as the Symbol of my hopes; that it is the flag of Freedom, and of Democracy and of Brotherhood.

TO SERVE and save America and those ideals for which it stands, and to keep the stars and stripes on high with honor; I pledge my hand, my heart and my life.

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