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Posts Tagged ‘Clean Dry Socks’

 

At “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918 the Allies of World War I and Germany signed an agreement for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I, thus bringing this horrible war (and what war isn’t) to a close.

Some of the most intense fighting of the war took place in that last month before the signing.

But, my grandfather didn’t see it. Around the first of October he was hit with mustard gas and spent the remainder of the war in a hospital in France.

He returned home with his unit in May of 1919, but his life, and his health, would never be the same.

Work on my script to tell his story continues.

On the first anniversary of the Armistice, President Woodrow Wilson issued this message:

ADDRESS TO FELLOW-COUNTRYMEN
The White House, November 11, 1919.

A year ago today our enemies laid down their arms in accordance with an armistice which rendered them impotent to renew hostilities, and gave to the world an assured opportunity to reconstruct its shattered order and to work out in peace a new and juster set of international relations. The soldiers and people of the European Allies had fought and endured for more than four years to uphold the barrier of civilization against the aggressions of armed force. We ourselves had been in the conflict something more than a year and a half.

With splendid forgetfulness of mere personal concerns, we remodeled our industries, concentrated our financial resources, increased our agricultural output, and assembled a great army, so that at the last our power was a decisive factor in the victory. We were able to bring the vast resources, material and moral, of a great and free people to the assistance of our associates in Europe who had suffered and sacrificed without limit in the cause for which we fought.

Out of this victory there arose new possibilities of political freedom and economic concert. The war showed us the strength of great nations acting together for high purposes, and the victory of arms foretells the enduring conquests which can be made in peace when nations act justly and in furtherance of the common interests of men.

To us in America the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service, and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of nations.

WOODROW WILSON

In 1954 Armistice Day was renamed to Veterans Day, and we continue to honor our Veterans on November 11.

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My apologies for not writing the past two weeks. Some, now mostly resolved, medical issues got in the way of our regular schedule. But I’m back now.

The journey towards the completion of my script, Clean Dry Socks: Diary of a Doughboy, continues. The script is in what I believe to be the final editing stage.

Last week, due to some work travel, I had the opportunity to journey to Southwest Virginia and take some time to seek out some inspiration. My trip afforded me the opportunity to travel to the small town of Cedar Bluff, Virginia, my grandfather’s home, and where my mother was born and grew up.

It took me a while to find the right route up to College Hill where the house was and where the old school still stands in ruins, but I found it and made the journey up the narrow, winding road.

Before I turned to drive up the hill, I saw a sign that announced the Cedar Bluff Veteran’s Day parade. I wanted to take a picture, but noted that I would miss the parade since it was scheduled for the following day (Saturday).

When I returned from my trip up to the school, I realized I had my dates wrong. As I parked to take the picture of the sign I looked a block away where a policeman had just stopped traffic and I saw the beginning of the parade.

I don’t believe in coincidence. But, here I was in my grandfather’s hometown, one-hundred years after he was drafted for service in World War I, watching the Veteran’s Day parade.

The significance? Although he did not talk about the war, and although his children were forbideen to talk about their history lessons of the war in his presence, every year he would put on his uniform and march in the Veteran’s Day parade, or as it was then called the Armistice Day parade.

This. Very. Same. Parade.

As parades go, this one was far from impressive. A few fire trucks, some marching children, the VFW unit and a few Vietnam veterans.

But I stood watching with tears in my eyes, and knowing this was more confirmation that I must indeed finish and produce this script.

After the parade, and after a few miss-turns I made my way to the cemetery where my grandparents and uncle are buried. It had been some twenty years since last I visited, so finding the grave was a challenge. But I found it.

As I stood there and swept the leaves off of the markers, I knew my grandparents were not there. But I stood there honoring Reese on Veteran’s Day, wanting him to know that I was telling his story, and hoping that I could do it justice.

The journey from Cedar Bluff to the stage continues…

 

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When the U.S. entered World War I, the war in Europe was at a stalemate. The thought was that the Yankees coming over would take care of things. To a certain extent they did.

To express that sentiment, songs like “Over There” expressed the sentiment of a nation. The 1917 hit song by George M. Cohen helped to galvanize young men to enlist in the fight against the “Hun” in both World Wars.

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We’re not talking about Pillsbury.

Doughboy was a terms used to describe members of the U.S. Army or Marine Corps, most often use for members of the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I. While origins of the term are unclear it was initially sued in the Mexican-American War of 1846-48. There are other uses throughout history.

While World War I began in 1914, the United States didn’t enter the conflict until 1917, in part due to the American sentiment that we didn’t go fight wars for other people.

Because of the later entrance into the war, one of the jokes surrounding the term was that the doughboys were “kneaded” in 1914, but didn’t “rise” until 1917.

But for the script I’m working on, it’s a term of endearment used for my grandfather and his buddies. These doughboys came from the hills of the Blue Ridge Mountain and traveled to a far land to fight for their country. Many didn’t return.

All who did return were changed.

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Woodrow Wilson announces to Congress on February 3, 1917 that official relations with the German Empire have ceased. (Wikimedia Commons)

In the early 1900s, Americans were almost uniformly opposed to becoming involved in wars on foreign lands. Woodrow Wilson’s 1916 reelection was based on an anti-war platform. But by 1917 things had changed, and it was increasingly more clear that the Germans intended to draw the United States into the war.

On April 2, 1917, President Wilson went before a joint session of Congress to seek a Declaration of War against Germany.

Wilson said…

The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty. We have no selfish ends to serve. We desire no conquest, no dominion. We seek no indemnities for ourselves, no material compensation for the sacrifices we shall freely make. We are but one of the champions of the rights of mankind. We shall be satisfied when those rights have been made as secure as the faith and the freedom of nations can make them…

…It is a distressing and oppressive duty, gentlemen of the Congress, which I have performed in thus addressing you. There are, it may be, many months of fiery trial and sacrifice ahead of us. It is a fearful thing to lead this great peaceful people into war, into the most terrible and disastrous of all wars, civilization itself seeming to be in the balance. But the right is more precious than peace, and we shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts—for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own governments, for the rights and liberties of small nations, for a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free…

A month later, Congress would authorize the draft. Just a few months after that my grandfather was called up, as a 29-year-old man, and within a year, he was in France.

My work on his story, Clean Dry Socks, continues…

Read the full Wilson speech.

 

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Yes, I know that’s a different war.

The progress on the script continues. I’ve now gone through with a new edit, using my red pen (get the title now?) to make edits and to mark where the script needs to be either rewritten or relocated.

It’s still a work in progres. But we’re closer to the mark, and the proofreading marks.

The goal is to have this next round of edits completed by mid-October with a final, presentable draft coming sometime in November.

 

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My script, Clean Dry Socks: Diary of a Doughboy, continues to be a work in progress. As I’ve mentioned, it’s in the editing stages now.

But to get to his point I found that I had to read and research much more than what my grandfather had written in his diary, and what my aunt had provided in commentary.

So, for weeks, perhaps months, I read more about World War I. I searched the Internet. I listened to podcasts.

And then it really hit me that I didn’t need to “study war no more…”

The story I’m telling is that of one American soldier, not the entire U.S. military or England and France.

I’m telling one story, and the tendency is to want to put in all of the details, all of the history.

But, then I wonder how much an audience really needs to be told about the horrors of war. That’s almost a given. Almost.

What’s not a given is how that war affected the average soldier far away from home.

That’s the story I’m telling.

This blog is the story of that story. There’s work to be done.

After all, it’s a long way to Tipperary.

 

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