“At the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month …”
So goes the familiar quote which originally designated when the armistice which ended hostilities on the Western Front during World War I was signed. It was later memorialized as the time to remember Armistice Day and all those who had died during the “Great War.”
Annually, across the globe, November 11th, which is known by several names, is honored with somber ceremonies and moments of silence. In the United States, we specifically remember those who have sacrificed their lives in the defense of this nation and its liberty on Memorial Day. On Veterans Day, formerly Armistice Day, we are called to reflect on the lives of those, both living and dead, who have served this country during times of conflict, as well as in times of peace.
Since its creation, numerous Miami County men and women have served faithfully in all branches of the armed forces. Unfortunately, we do not have the time or space to peruse the lives of all those who have served. But, sometimes reading personal narratives can help us see the tremendous sacrifice of individuals and the cost to them and their families. Please allow me to share a few stories.
On May 19, 1895, Clifford Thompson was born in Troy. He grew up in the community and attended the local schools, and was quite a good athlete. When the United States entered World War I, Thompson enlisted with the National Guard unit in Piqua, but was later transferred to the 166th Infatnry, 42nd Division. Before he left for training he and his sweetheart May Young were married.
On October 23, 1918, in some of the most horrific fighting in the war, at the Battle of Chateau-Thierry, France , Thompson acted heroically when he quickly grabbed a live grenade which had been tossed into his trench, and in heaving it back out saved the lives of several comrades, but severely damaged his right hand when the grenade exploded near him. His hand was later amputated.
He was awarded the “Distinguished Service Cross” for his heroism. Italy also honored him with the “Croce di Guerra.” The Troy American Legion Post 43, the first post established in Miami County, honored Clifford Thompson by naming Post 43 the Clifford Thompson Post.
Unfortunately, Thompson still had several ‘battles’ to fight. After returning home, he spent many days in hospitals as a result of poor health. On August 26, 1919, he was suddenly stricken with ill health and died the next day. Doctors stated he died from diabetes which had been complicated by his exposure to gas during the war. He was 24 years old and left a young widow.
But those who have served are not just from more than a half century ago.
Marc L. Cole, of Ludlow Falls, was a typical young man growing up in the Midwest. He loved his Mom and Dad, his sister and their pets. He enjoyed sports and played football at Milton-Union High School in West Milton. Marc graduated from Milton-Union in 1982. He also had a tremendous patriotic love for his country and wanted to serve in the armed forces and, therefore, almost immediately after graduation enlisted with the U.S. Marine Corp.
As part of their operations, the U.S. forces often serve missions around the world as part of peacekeeping units in an effort to keep conflicts from erupting or escalating.
In 1983, the U.S. Marines, including PFC Marc Cole, were part of two multi-national peacekeeping forces in Beirut, Lebanon.
The Palestinian Liberation Organization and Syrian Forces were shelling Galilean communities in northern Israel and the Israeli Defense Forces were fighting back to create a perimeter for safety. At the same time, the leadership in Beirut was seen as being too friendly with Israel, so there was much fighting and destruction in that city, which also caused many civilian casualties.
In the early morning of October 23, 1983, two trucks loaded with explosives crashed through the peacekeeper’s compound gates. The guards, who were under peacetime engagement orders, could not employ their weapons quickly enough to disable the trucks, which proceeded to crash into the barracks where the peacekeeping forces were housed. The ensuing explosion caused 305 deaths among the peacekeepers and civilians. Two Hundred and Forty One of the dead were U.S. Marines. Marc Cole was 19 years old.
We can also learn from those who are still able to personally relate their experiences.
Someone of great worth for anyone to talk to is Al Mulder of Troy. Mr. Mulder was born in the Netherlands and as a boy experienced the German occupation of his homeland. He and his family, like many Dutch families did all they could to resist the Nazis.
Mr. Mulder has recounted how his parents, not liking the Nazis or what they stood for, would secretly hide Jewish children in their home. Like the stories of Anne Frank or Corrie Ten Boom, the Mulders did this at a great risk to their personal safety and freedom.
Al Mulder later came to the United States and has lived here since that time. He is also a Vietnam War veteran, retired, who served during that troubled time.
To all these veterans and many more, both living and dead, words escape me when reflecting on my liberty as a product of your service. I can only simply say, “Thank you.”
Patrick D. Kennedy is archivist at the Troy-Miami County Public Library’s Local History Library, 100 W. Main St., Troy. He may be contacted by calling (937) 335-4082 or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org