Honor and Duty In 1918
My Grandfather, in 1917-18, served in the Army and the war to end all wars: World War 1. He fought in the mud and bacteria filled trenches in France: wounded twice and gassed once. He killed Germans in close hand to hand combat with a bayonet and a knife, never forgetting the look on the faces. He lost friends in vicious battles. There was no time to grieve or pay respects. That would come later in life.
Looking back through my childhood relationship with him, he likely suffered from what we now call PTSD. My Grandmother said he was a different man after that war, and at times, not a good one.
He refused to talk about the fighting and killing until I was around ten-years-old, and he was dying from Lymphoma cancer, likely caused by the gassing he received in the war. He knew that I might someday go to war, so he wanted to let me know it was not like the movies.
We sat for a many hours one afternoon a few weeks before his passing. His descriptions of battle and the things he had done for his own survival was beyond anything I could imagine. I was young, and war to me was black and white movies. James Cagney in “The Fighting 69th,” or John Wayne and a host of others playing army, like my neighborhood friends and I did. No one really died, and when shot, there was no blood or screaming.
The last few days of his life were spent in and out of reality, reliving those battles as he lay in a veteran’s hospital in Dallas. My Father, a veteran himself, was the recipient of my Grandfathers horrors.
John Henry Strawn made sure I knew what real honor and duty were about. It followed him for a lifetime.