100 Years Ago, Still Relevant

Otto Horn
Otto Horn

This morning on Fox & Friends Weekend, anchor Pete Hedgespeth narrateddes as European leaders and President Trump were gathered at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

It had been a terrible, bloody war. Hedgespeth said that today no one really had ties with anyone involved in that war so long ago.

He’s wrong.

I still think of my grandfather, Otto Horn, who was a Marine in that war. It’s all real to me – in fact, his Marine uniform hangs in the armoire of my bedroom, along with his helmet, a pair of binoculars and Iron Cross he took from a dead German, plus his letters and army booklets. (The binoculars work just fine, by the way.)

It doesn’t get more tangible than that.

Then there were his stories that he liked to tell us grandkids. He spoke of the trenches, so muddy that when you got up from them, your body outline remained. There was an officer in one group so mean that his soldiers all shot him in the back. Of the endless rain that pelted the soldiers and how American soldiers drank so much wine their tongues turned black.

He spared us some of the gory details except to describe seeing bodies stacked up against the walls inside a chateau because it was too cold to bury them.

In the basement of his St. Louis home he had a pair of boots sticking out of the crawl space gravel. He titillated grandkids by telling us there was a dead German soldier in there. We all knew it wasn’t true, but had to satisfy our curiosity with a look from time to time.

There are his letters and military books which describe his arrival for basic training in July of 1917 and arrival in France on Christmas Day 1917. He writes to my grandmother (they weren’t married yet) about the conditions in France, how much he misses her and his appreciation for the gifts and letters she sent. The letters were censored, which disturbed him, but he managed to talk some about the heavy burden Woodrow Wilson carried and said that he wouldn’t want to be him. He also expressed happiness that women were given the vote. Having lived with his grandmother some as a teenager he always thought women should vote as his grandmother was intelligent, had property to be concerned about and paid attention to politics.

People from that era would be shocked at how little attention has been paid to the “war to end all wars.” This 100th anniversary of such a pivotal moment in our and world history has been overlooked by TV or news specials. There haven’t been any.
Nor is there a national monument remembering the war. Funds are being collected for one, but why has it taken 100 years?

No wonder there is so little patriotism anymore. Days like today – with the holiday celebrated tomorrow – just pass as a day off work or a day to go shopping.

How sad.

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