Friday, November 11, 2011
Armistice Day was first observed in 1919 when the carnage of the War to End All Wars was still fresh in the hearts and minds of those who fought and those who lost friends and family. But Armistice Day became Veterans Day, a day to honor all of the veterans who fought to preserve our freedom. One such veteran was Pvt. Reggie Thurlow, originally from Hope, North Dakota, who served in World War I, and whose letters appeared in the McKenzie County Chronicle, where he worked before going off to war.
In a letter to his grandfather, Reggie wrote of spending Christmas in the hospital in Liverpool, England and how he later rejoined his unit in France in October of 1918, where he was soon engaged in battle. “We were sleeping in the brush within half a mile from the front line,” he wrote, “and about midnight the Germans threw over one of those barrages. Big shells, little shells, high explosives, shrapnel, whizz bangs and big G. I. cans. We were lying on top of the ground and in a wild attempt to get to… shelter of some sort, we started running. Those shells were breaking all around us. Trees were crashing to the ground as tho a cyclone was on…. The shells can be heard coming. One has two seconds to get under cover and believe me, we learn to make use of those two seconds.”
Reggie survived the constant barrages and he wrote these words on November 12, “Yesterday, Nov 11, after a hard Sunday driving and while we were still within range of Fritz’s guns, the glad news came of the agreement for armistice. The big guns near us ceased firing and the occasional moan and terrific explosions of German shells coming our way died out and in the quiet that has since reigned there is something almost uncanny…”
For Reggie and for the thousands of others who have fought for our country, may we say a special thank you on this Veterans Day, and – may we also find a way to live in the “uncanny” quiet of peace.
Dakota Datebook written by Jim Davis
The McKenzie County Chronicle December 26, 1918