Veterans Day

Today, November 11, is Veterans Day, a day that honors military veterans who served in the United States Armed Forces. It’s significance is that it is the day when the Armistice was signed in 1918, ending World War I. My grandfather, and his cousin, and countless men and women, fought in that “great war”. Some came home. Some did not.

A well-known poem of that war goes like this:

I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air—
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair…

The poem was written by New Yorker Alan Seeger who joined the French Foreign Legion.

On July 4, 1916, he joined his fellow Legionnaires in the Battle of the Somme, attacking German lines in a green corn field already strewn with bodies. Their destination, the village of Belloy-en Santerre. With bayonet affixed to his rifle he charged the field with his fellows, and soon disappeared.

The village would be taken, the Legionnaires would celebrate, but not Private Seeger, who was among the first to fall that day.


It may be he shall take my hand

And lead me into his dark land
And close my eyes and quench my breath—
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.

God knows ’twere better to be deep
Pillowed in silk and scented down,
Where love throbs out in blissful sleep,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
Where hushed awakenings are dear…
But I’ve a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.

The 28th day of September, 1918, was the third day of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, in which the US First Army squared off against units of the German Third and Fifth Armies.

A young American soldier, Varlourd Pearson by name, hailed from Tallapoosa County, Alabama, but leaving Kansas State University in Manhattan and enlisting in the Kansas Reserve and joining the 137th Regiment, found himself in the middle of battle.

The first day of the offensive the regiment was ordered to assault Vauquois Hill. Having taken the hill, the regiment moved on through the Montrebeau Woods to a point south of the village of Cheppy on the way to Charpentry.

As so often happens in battle, the artillery does not keep pace with the enthusiasm of the advancing soldiers. The resolve of the enemy stiffens. The fighting becomes hand to hand.

sergeant varlourd (varlaurd) pearson, france, died in action spet. 28, 1918

Headquarters 35th Division, American Expeditionary Forces,
October 17th, 1918.
(General Orders, No. 83.

The Division Commander takes great pleasure in citing in General Orders the following-named officers and enlisted men for gallantry in action during the six days’ battle from September 26th to October 1st, 1918.

Sergeant Varlaurd Pearson, Company I, 137th Infantry.
Although wounded by machine gun fire September 30th (sic.), displayed excellent leadership in handling his platoon, which he kept well organized, and succeeded in dislodging several machine gun nests.

By command of Major General Traub

 

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