Saturday, November 8, 2014

A Day of Remembrance

Sgt. John Guess, Jr.
 Distinguished Service Cross, Recipient

Ninety-six years ago, almost to the day, Sgt. John Guess, Jr. died in a Base Hospital in France from injuries sustained in one of the most defining battles of World War I.

For a number of years I have been working on his story, "A Hundred Years of Tears - A Soldier's Story, From the Savannah to the Somme".  I am close to completion and it has been a long and interesting journey.

As we approach this day of remembrance honoring our veterans, I want to take a moment to remember my own uncle, an America hero, remembered this day along with the many, many others in our nation's history.


November 25, 1918

The air swirled and blew icy cold outside, inside you could hear the wind whistling through even the smallest crack in the wall. Emma pulled her shawl tighter around her shoulders. It was the only thing she had left to protect her from this awful news. The fire crackled and spit in anger as she poked at it, seemingly it just mimicked her own raging emotions.
On her lap laid the telegram that had arrived earlier in the day from Adjutant General Harris. She had read those simple twenty-one words over and over and over again. With each reading she prayed the letters on the page would rework themselves to form new words. Words that would be filled with hope and not despair.
But no matter how many times she reread the telegram the words remained the same.

“Deeply regret to inform you that it is officially reported that Sergt John Guess Jr infantry died of septicemia November seventh.”

Emma knew she would never again feel the touch of her first-born’s hand or see his lips turn up in that boyish smile that everyone loved so much. She only had enough strength left to close her eyes and as she did the tears rolled down her face, falling from her cheeks in droplets that ended as water stains upon the telegram paper. 

The Beginning

“This is the story I never got to tell, there is so much I want to tell about these last few months, but the end really is no way to begin.”

John slowly shuffled his boots through the dust as he made his way to the split-rail fence that marked the entrance to the Savannah ranch. He was still wearing his battle weary uniform as he stepped up on the lower rail and took a familiar seat on this time worn wood. He turned his head letting his gaze spread out over the land that he had left just a few months before. Odd to view this landscape and see no one about. No animals wandering in the pens. No granddad or dad busy with the daily chores. No mother hanging out the laundry on the lines at the back of the house. None of the childish bantering between Thelma and Charlie. Just silence and dust. John brought his hand up to his forehead to push back the strands of brown hair that had fallen over his face. But he could not feel the touch of his own hand. That absence of feeling made him hesitate for a moment before resting his hand at last on the rail post.

1 comment:

  1. You've given us a peek -- and it sounds wonderful! Thank you. Very nice to be invited in. Good work, too. And yes, we mustn't forget those who fought. I only wish that today's wars weren't meaningless. I can't imagine being in the military in the year 2014. And the idea of losing a son in a meaningless "war" is horrifying. I assume Guess didn't have this problem nearly a century ago, in 1918. At least there's that.