This Sunday will mark the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended what was called "The War to End All Wars" World War I. The United States entered the war several years after it started. Over 4.5 million Americans served during World War I. Millions of Americans joined the British and French troops already engaged in futile nightmare of deadly trench warfare. During the year and a half the United States was engaged in World War I over 116,000 Americans died.
Two of my grand mother's brothers fought in World War I. What I know about them comes from the recollections of my grand mother who passed away 27 years ago. When I was in high school I would often visit my grandma in Brooklyn. Over coffee we talked about history, politics and the two brothers she loved and admired. Jim was the oldest and Noel was a year or two younger. They grew up very poor in Jersey City When World War I started Jim and Noel both enlisted. According to my grand mother Jim was so thin the recruiter placed his hand on Jim's shoulder while they were weighing him so he would make the minimum weight.
While fighting in trench warfare Noel was exposed to deadly mustard gas several times. In an attempt to end the deadlock of trench warfare the German Army started firing artillery shells filled with mustard gas at enemy troops in 1917. Direct exposure could kill or blind you. Noel did come home but his lungs were seriously damaged. He died in his 40's. Respiratory problems shortened his life.
James Andrews would go on to be a career soldier. He started out as an enlisted man and rose to the rank of Brigadier General. A rare honor for an enlisted man. Uncle Jim served during World War II and the Korean War as well as World War I. He is buried overlooking the Pentagon in Arlington National Cemetery. I was pretty young when he passed away.
Several years ago my cousin Elaine joined me on a vacation trip to Myrtle Beach. On the way there we stopped at Arlington National Cemetery because she is a few years older than me and remembered Uncle Jim. President Kennedy is buried at Arlington as well.
Over 400,000 men and women who bravely fought and died for the United States are buried there. Arlington covers 426 acres. I still get a lump in my throat when I remember what I felt and saw that day. Every American should try to visit Arlington National Cemetery at least once in their lifetime. Maybe then all Americans would get as offended as I do when they see people "Taking a knee."