Some of you may know, that I have been researching my Grandfather’s involvement in WWI. He is buried in Long Island National Cemetery, Pinelawn, Suffolk County, New York. His grave stone indicates he served with the 106th Infantry Regiment, Company B. I spent about 2 months now researching and discovered he was part of the 27th Division, an all New York National Guard Unit that was federalized and shipped off to France.
Through New York Times articles, military documents, websites, and three books written in the 1920s, I have been able to pinpoint, to the date, place and actual time, where my Grandfather was. Horrendously, he was on the front line, literally, facing the Germans on the Hindenburg Line at 5:30am on 09/29/1918. Company C was to his left and Company A was to his right. Company D was spread out behind those three companies. All part of 1st Battalion 106. At 5:30am they did that out-of-the-trenchs and over-the-top craziness and charged the St. Quentin Canal Tunnel in the area of Quennemont Farm, France. Within minutes most of his 435-member company were gone. Every single officer in the company was killed.
My middle son, Ryan, said to me, “Soooo, essentially, if he had died we wouldn’t be here.” Hmmm, I guess he’s right. So, doing math quickly, being conservative and estimating, let’s say of the 420 who died 300 would have become fathers. Having 3 kids each (my father’s level) who in turn had 3 kids each (my level) who in turn had 3 kids each (my son’s level). That comes to 8100 or so people who simply don’t exist.
But Memorial Day is not about those 8100 non-existing people. It’s not about our right to barbecue; smoke cigars while tinkering in the garage; buying Fords; raising families; having a cabin in the woods; riding a motorcycle; fishing; flying a flag outside our home – it’s about living in peace. Freely. It’s about those 435 guys in Company B, 1st Battalion, 106th Infantry Regiment, 27th Division, 53rd Brigade, II Army of the American Expeditionary Forces who got on a boat called the USS President Lincoln, from Hoboken NJ on Thursday, May 9, 1918, fought Germans in the name of freedom, and left Camp Upton (commonly referred to as Brookhaven National Labs) on the 1:15pm Long Island Rail Road and got off in Brooklyn on the Nostrand Avenue stop as discharged citizens. Heroes.
It’s about guys like my Dad who served with the National Guard Army Reserve out of the 14th Regimental Armory in Brooklyn, my Uncle John who served as a Military Police Officer during the Korean War, and my brother, Gerard, who served during the First Gulf War. And, it’s about all of your family and friends who served to keep us safe. That’s what Memorial Day is all about.