Sunday, May 27, 2012

Please Remember


@jamesscottbell

In April, 1917, a puckish, fun loving nineteen-year-old Marine named Frederick Hamilton “Ted” Fox was about to be shipped off to France. His mother, Esther, and sister, Frederica (whom everyone affectionately called “Freddy”) came to the train station to see him off.

Ted Fox was my great uncle. In the photograph below I hope you can see the expressions on the faces. Ted, I am told, had a generous and robust spirit, and a smile that could light up a room. Esther looks so proud of him. And my great aunt Freddy has the most engaging, vivacious and interested look about her. She was an artist, and in those heady days just before the Roaring 20’s she had an artist’s temperament about living life to the full. They all came together in this amazing photo:



Corporal Ted Fox arrived in France and began preparing for action. It came in June of 1918, in what came to be known as the Battle of Belleau Wood.

At dawn on June 7th, the Marines were ordered to advance toward the German lines and their deadly machine gun nests.

The first wave ended in slaughter.

Ted Fox’s squad, along with another, were dispatched to flank the nests. They cleaned out one, and went for another. It was during this second wave that Ted Fox, leading his men, was killed by a bullet to the head.

News traveled slowly in those days, and it took nearly six months for Esther to receive the final news of her son’s sacrifice. She’d written a letter to a naval hospital and that letter was seen by a wounded soldier. He took it upon himself to write to her.

Great Lakes, Ill.
February 15th, 1919

Dear Friend Mrs. Fox- - -

My attention was called to a letter you wrote the hospital in relation to your son who was killed in action. He was in the same company and platoon that I was. I did not see your son fall but I assure you that he fought gallantly for his country and died upon the field of battle bravely. I’m sure his last thoughts were of his dear Mother at home and praying that the news of his death would not be too great a shock to her. As being in battle I know that one thinks of his dear ones at home and not of what may happen to oneself. We all knew that we were either going to be killed or wounded in such a terrific battle that was then raging but all faced it bravely and fought fiercely until we fell. I was wounded severely but escaped with my life in the same battle that your son was killed . . .

Mrs. Fox, I know that you are and should be very proud to be a mother of such a son that volunteering gave his life to his country.

All the boys that died on the field of battle will never be forgotten and shall be honored by their comrades.

A Marine,

Private Roy R. Drowty
U.S. Naval Hospital
Great Lakes, Ill.

As a memorial, Esther Fox was given a specially commissioned piece of art, showing the female symbol of America, Columbia, honoring the war dead. At the top it says: COLUMBIA GIVES TO HER SON THE ACCOLADE OF THE NEW CHIVALRY OF HUMANITY.



This memorial now hangs in my home.

And when my dad, Arthur Scott Bell, was born in 1919, the family decided to nickname him Ted, in honor of his uncle. In a way, my dad was a living memorial to Ted Fox. And he carried that legacy with him when he went into the Navy in World War II.

I believe in memorials. I believe we have to remember sacrifice. If we don’t, if we give up on the idea of honoring those who gave "the last full measure of devotion" for our  greater good, we will not only lose what’s best in America but also what’s best in the human spirit.

War is hell. And young men and women, wave after wave of them, have gone into hell for us. I don’t care what side of the political spectrum you come from. Each of us owe our war dead and wounded all the honor we can bestow. They're not politicians or pundits. They're the brave ones who've been there for us, no matter what we believe. In fact, so that we can continue to believe what we want and talk about it, demonstrate about it, vote on it. 


The line in Private Drowty's letter that stands out for me is this one: We all knew that we were either going to be killed or wounded in such a terrific battle that was then raging but all faced it bravely and fought fiercely until we fell.

That's why we need to remember.


In the last stanza of Lt. Col. John McCrae's World War I poem "In Flanders Fields" (referring to a place where war dead were buried) we, the living, are given a charge. I pray you will take a moment to think about it before you dive into your beer and hot dogs this Memorial Day weekend:

To you from failing hands we throw 


The torch; be yours to hold it high. 
If ye break faith with us who die 


We shall not sleep, though poppies grow 


In Flanders fields.



18 comments:

  1. Awesome post. I write for a small local weekly here in Fort Scott, Kansas.

    In 1862, our town was designated as home to one of the original 14 national cemeteries, in fact, we are #1. The first round of burials were Civil War deaths. However, as the war ended and the frontier changed, as the Army began to close small forts and outposts, they brought their dead to Fort Scott to rest with their comrades, rather than being lost to history.

    Last week I wrote about how the government bought the land for $75 and the historical highlights. This week the topic was about a state law that required Kansas counties to provide $100 funerals for veterans from the Spanish-American War and the Boxer Rebellion (last vet passed in 1992). I love writing these stories because to forget the men and the history behind the 6000 headstones in National Cemetery is to dishonor their sacrifice.

    I am so glad to hear you say that memorial hangs in your home. As an antique dealer, I see too many momentos like that thrown in garage sale boxes. At one sale, I blessed the auctioneer who refused to sell a memorial flag. He said if the family didn't want it back, he'd take it to the VFW (I'd planned on buying it and doing just that). It's about respect and honor.

    All the best to you and your family on this holiday weekend.

    Terri

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  2. Thanks for sharing this Jim, hope you all have a great memorial day weekend.

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  3. James, I got up early this morning just to read your post. I knew it was going to be great. It's going to stay with me for a long time to come. Thank you.

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  4. Jim, Thanks for this personal glimpse into the reason we celebrate this day--or rather, we set aside this day to honor those who truly gave the "last full measure of devotion" for our freedom.
    It was my privilege to serve in our armed forces, although without ever having seen a shot fired in anger. With you, I pause to salute those who have been placed in harm's way and the sacrifice they made.
    Thank you for this post.

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  5. Thanks for your wonderful post, Jim. As always, your words & story touched me.

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  6. Wonderful tribute to your great uncle, Jim. I spent some of yesterday watching battle stories on the Military History Channel, and felt so moved by the courage and grit displayed by our soldiers throughout the nation's history. We owe them all so much!

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  7. Great tribute. I can never make it through a Memorial Day without crying, thinking about those who gave their lives and wondering how many more times men and women will have to pay such a cost. Of course there will be no answer to that until the Lord returns.

    Thank you for the reminder and may we all live in such a way that their sacrifice is not in vain.

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  8. Outstanding post, Jim. It touched me.

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  9. Thank you for all the kind words and personal remembrances.

    As a footnote: Esther became a "Gold Star Mother" (those who had lost sons in the war) and did volunteer work for the organization and at hospitals.

    Sometime in the 20's Aunt Freddy went to France for further art training, came back and worked at the studios, painting scene backdrops and the like.

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  10. A moving tribute to your great uncle and to all who have fallen in service. Thank you.

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  11. To all who have stood, and all who have fallen...till we meet again on that sacred heavenly hill where God has raised the Warrior's Hall never more the foe, only brothers. ..Semper Fidelis

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  12. Thank you for sharing this family story, Jim.

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  13. James, I could cry for your family's loss from war. It hurts me right down to my soul to think a parent must willingly give up his/her child to the vagaries of war.

    I honor every fallen soldier. I honor every loved one who must carry on when only emptiness returns from a battle ground. I honor those who come home from war with PTSD and struggle to find their place in a peaceful world.

    My prayer is that starting this Memorial Day, WAR becomes obsolete. I pray that the fear which drives men to hate dissolves into awakening that we are made of the same essence of life and need eachother to celebrate the gift we have so humbly been given to co-exist on this jewel of a planet.

    God bless America. God keep our fallen close. And may His Holy Spirit raise us to new heights to become the noble, loving and gracious beings He created us to be.

    Peace is so very simple to achieve. We just have to choose it.

    See how inspiring you are, James?

    Love to all. xox, Piks
    (I'll probably be embarrassed by this tomorrow.)

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  14. Wow, that's an amazing story. Sad, but also beautiful.

    Thank you for sharing this, James.

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  15. Thanks again for all the kind words this Memorial Day.

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