Fate Is the Reason I’m Here Today

Published: 15 February 2023

By Bruce Coulter
via the Medium web site

William Ross Coulter, WWI Draft Card and photo in uniform

William Ross Coulter, WWI Draft Card and photo in uniform

My grandfather, William Ross Coulter, circa 1917, and my grandfather’s World War I draft registration card.

I’m blessed because my grandfather came home from the First World War

More than 100 years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary, which led to the onset of World War I, America and numerous other countries continue to honor the men and women who served during the “war to end all wars.”

World War I claimed the lives of some 16 million soldiers and civilians. Another 21 million were wounded. The United States, which entered the war in1917, buried more than 116,000 service members.

Since 1919, when President Woodrow Wilson announced Nov. 11 would be known as Armistice Day, Americans have paused to honor the memories of veterans, past and present. Today, we know it as Veterans Day.

So why should we remember World War I a century later? Because it’s America’s story. More accurately, it’s the story of many families, including mine.

My family’s service to the country in uniform goes beyond World War I, but I’ve only found one photo of my grandfather on my dad’s side, looking spiffy in uniform as an Army doughboy.

Those who trace their family heritage know it’s a mistake to ignore the smallest clues, lest you lose the trail. Alternatively, we may also find history we don’t like; an enslaver or Confederate soldier, perhaps a Tory from our revolutionary past.

Researching my family’s lineage recently, I came across my grandfather’s draft registration card, dated June 5, 1917, more than two months after Wilson sought a declaration of war in Congress. My grandfather was 28, married with two children, and living in Allentown, Pennsylvania. He was a foreman at American Steel and Wire Co. and registered for the draft eight years before his son, Roy — my father — was born.

What I found particularly interesting regarding his draft card was a printed notation in the lower left-hand corner: “If (a) person is of African descent, tear off this corner.” With the world at war, the federal government still saw fit to separate White and Black Americans. That painful reminder of segregation isn’t pleasant to think about in or out of uniform, but it remains part of America’s past and, sadly, the present day.

Like thousands of veterans, my grandfather, William, and his wife, Evona, would pick up their lives at war’s end and go on to have four more children.

I’m not sure if my grandfather shared his experiences in the trenches of Europe with my father. It would not have been an easy discussion, but I’m sure my father had a much better understanding after returning home from World War II more than 20 years later.

Why remember World War I? Thousands of families watched husbands and sons go off to the battlefields of Europe. Many of these soldiers never saw their families again and are buried in France, Belgium, and England today.

Read the entire article on the Medium web site.

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