stand in military rows, in contrast to the manicured emerald green lawn
and bushes. Six American cemeteries from World War 1 dot the French
countryside, many of the cemeteries where the battlefields, so if they
fell here, they were buried here.
I've seen pictures and film from World War 1 and these battlefields,
now cemeteries, looked like hell reincarnated, where thousand of
solders died a day. And now they are enclaves of peace and quiet
carved out of chaos and despair.
At in one of these cemeteries named Somme American Cemetery in
Bony, France lies my great uncle, Harry Small, Private U.S. Army
118th Infantry Regiment, 30th Division Entered Service from New
Jersey, Died Oct. 17, 1918 Buried at Plot D Row 16 Grave 11
And now I've just had this thought, he was 26 days to making it to
the end of the war, just 26 days, killed by a sniper.
In all these 94 years I wonder if anyone had visited, or laid down
flowers upon the ground, or took a knee and prayed a prayer, or
ran their fingers across his name. Sleep well Harry Small, sleep well.
And this should be the end of the story right, ...no, not quite yet. You
see I have found a coincidence, a sequence of events that needs to be
mentioned. My great Uncle lived in Jersey City, New Jersey about 30
miles from New Brunswick, New Jersey and in New Brunswick was a
man by the name of Joyce Kilmer, a very well known poet who also
served in World War 1.
Now in France about thirty mile from Somme American Cemetery is
Oise-Aisne American Cemetery and in that cemetery at Plot B Row 9
Grave 15 is Joyce Kilmer, Sgt. Died: July 30, 1918 Killed by a sniper.
Now I know this is a far stretch, but my Great Uncle and Joyce
Kilmer lived 30 miles apart and are now buried 30 miles from each
from other. And they were both killed by a sniper. Then I started to
think, could they have been both killed by the same sniper? HEY...
its just a thought, and unprovable. anyway they didn't know each
other in life, at least I don't think so.
Now everything from here down is from WIKIPEDIA
about Joyce Kilmer.
To commemorate the loss of 21 fellow soldiers of The Fighting Sixty Ninth, Kilmer composed the following poem which was read over their graves in March 1918. It is traditional in the regiment to read the poem at memorial services for fallen members of the regiment, adding their names to the list of the dead in the appropriate line, and it was read over his own grave five months after he wrote it:
- In a wood they call the Rouge Bouquet
- There is a new-made grave to-day,
- Built by never a spade nor pick
- Yet covered with earth ten metres thick.
- There lie many fighting men,
- Dead in their youthful prime,
- Never to laugh nor love again
- Nor taste the Summertime.
- For Death came flying through the air
- And stopped his flight at the dugout stair,
- Touched his prey and left them there,
- Clay to clay.
- He hid their bodies stealthily
- In the soil of the land they fought to free
- And fled away.
- Now over the grave abrupt and clear
- Three volleys ring;
- And perhaps their brave young spirits hear
- The bugle sing:
- “Go to sleep!
- Go to sleep!
- Slumber well where the shell screamed and fell.
- Let your rifles rest on the muddy floor,
- You will not need them any more.
- Danger’s past;
- Now at last,
- Go to sleep!”
- There is on earth no worthier grave
- To hold the bodies of the brave
- Than this place of pain and pride
- Where they nobly fought and nobly died.
- Never fear but in the skies
- Saints and angels stand
- Smiling with their holy eyes
- On this new-come band.
- St. Michael’s sword darts through the air
- And touches the aureole on his hair
- As he sees them stand saluting there,
- His stalwart sons;
- And Patrick, Brigid, Columkill
- Rejoice that in veins of warriors still
- The Gael’s blood runs.
- And up to Heaven’s doorway floats,
- From the wood called Rouge Bouquet,
- A delicate cloud of buglenotes
- That softly say:
- Comrades true, born anew, peace to you!
- Your souls shall be where the heroes are
- And your memory shine like the morning-star.
- Brave and dear,
- Shield us here.