The Ultimate Sacrifice

Grandpa at his brother’s memorial service, 1920.

 

When he was very young, my older brother was in danger of getting drafted when he turned eighteen. Much to our mother’s relief, Nixon ended the draft in 1973, and I never had to worry about a sibling going off to war.

My grandpa wasn’t so lucky. While his seventh grade class was busy knitting vests for soldiers overseas, his own big brother, Howard, was caught up in the fervor to fight The War to End All Wars, and enlisted in the infantry. In May 1918, after seven months of training at Camp Hancock, he departed for France. Two months later, on the first day of his regiment’s confrontation with the enemy, Howard was killed by machine gun fire in the Conde Woods.

A comrade reported seeing him lying wounded a few hours after the attack, asking for water, but the man had none and knew that the enemy was returning, so he left without helping. A few days later, a patrol looking for bodies found Howard’s about 200 yards from where he had last been seen, and buried him with twelve other soldiers in a grave near Marne. Two years later, his body was disinterred and shipped back to Pennsylvania, where he received full military honors.

My grandfather said that his parents were in denial when they got the news of Howard’s death. When the remains were finally returned home, the family was offered the opportunity to identify the body, but declined. As a result, his father was able to hope until the end of his days that there had been a mix-up, and that Howard might someday return.

He didn’t.

This post is dedicated to brave men long forgotten, and to the families that had to go on without them.

References: History of the 110th Infantry (10th Pa.) of the 28th Division, U. S. A. (Published by The Association of the 110th Infantry, 1920); Personal recollections of Clair H. Brewer, Sr.

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “The Ultimate Sacrifice

  1. Wow, what a gripping and heroic family history. To feel both pride and pain for their service and their loss…

    They are heroes.

  2. Wow. Such a sad, heart-breaking story. I’m so grateful we have such brave souls willing to do such incredible things in order to make our world a better, more peaceful place.

  3. Layinda,

    Thanks for sharing this beautiful and haunting story. My heart goes out to your family and all those who suffer the same fate.

    My father’s uncle had been MIA since the Korean War. It was only about four years ago that they finally learned where he was when he died and the details surrounding his death.

    It was such a relief for my great aunt to finally have closure after all those years. It is unimaginable to me how difficult it would be to move forward when there is no finality.

    Your prayers and thoughts are heartfelt and needed during this time of continued strife. Thanks again for sharing your family’s journey.

    hugs~

  4. What a touching post, Linda. I have three brothers who served (2 army, 1 air force), an uncle who served in Korea and another in WWII, a grandather in WWI and recently doing geneology research found various-great grandfathers in the Civil War (both Union and Confederate), the war of 1812 and the Revolutionary War. I’m always torn when I considet their contributions. On the one hand, I’m honored and proud. On the other, I wish “serving one’s country” in the act of war was never necessary. With all the paychological and emotional growth we humans have supposedly done throughout history, I can’t understand why we still have to kill each other to make a point.

  5. Mary Pitman

    Thanks for this. It is beautiful.

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