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The Currency of War? Some Memorial Day Thoughts

For whatever reasons the nation is in our current war (and I think it will be a very long time before we get to understand why), various media pundits have said that since most of the members of the general public or American industry is not bearing the burden of it, there is not major support for it.

The burden of the war is being born by the families of our service men and women. We in Central Wisconsin have no shortages, our production plants still produce in abundance with all the raw materials they require to put food on our tables and produce new car models each year. We have not done without. I do not have a victory garden, I barely recycle aluminumn and newsprint. We common people have not suffered.

However, it is mostly the “little people” - the neighbor’s son and daughter next door who are fighting this war. There are very few sons and daughters of the members of congress who are in the armed services. (Britain will truly set the example should Prince Harry get sent into the war zone with his regiment).

The face of local effect of a war came home to me while doing research on a medal I recently acquired.

It is a Gold Star Medal from the town of Lowell, Mass. Presented by the city in 1922 to the mother of Albert W. Palm. 169 citizens of Lowell gave their lives in the service of the nation during World War I. Using some generally available Internet genealogy sites; I was able to piece together his story.

Albert Palm’s parents were immigrants from Sweden. He was the third of four children, with an older sister and brother, and a younger sister. Born on Dec. 8, 1896, he registered for the draft in the second registration of June 5, 1918.

He reported to Camp Devens in Ayer, Mass. about 18 miles from home on Sept. 3, 1918. He was assigned as a clerk in the 1st Company, 1st Training Battalion, 151st Depot Brigade; part of the 26th Division – The Yankee Division.

The first case of influenza was diagnosed at Camp Devens on September 8th. On the 14th there were 2000 cases, and on the 15th there were a total of 3000 cases. By months end there were over 14,000 cases and of those 764 would die, including on Sept. 19th, our medal’s subject Albert W. Palm.

To see how the epidemic spread, this is a great timeline map from the PBS American Experience program.

He answered the call of his nation; he was in uniform for 16 days. He never left the county in which he resided. What did his mother, father, brothers and sisters think of the irony in all this?

The Gold Star Mothers

 of America
were formed formerly after the war, the name taken from the use of a gold star replacing a blue star on the service flag, denoting the change in status from a family member in service to one killed while in service.

Camp Devens
after the WWI becam Fort Devens, remaining active until the mid-1990s. See their site for more history, photos and information.

So thank a member of the military this Memorial Day!

George ?uhaj