Veterans Day still bleeds with tragedy

Perhaps we will never know how Pvt. Earl T. Winehart was killed Oct. 7, 1918, during World War I.

The possibilities are grisly. Was he stabbed with a bayonet, hit with mustard gas, blasted with a grenade or shot by an 8mm German Mauser? Many soldiers died of the flu.

The horrific details of his passing are not the point. That Winehart is remembered in a very precious way gives visual proof of the significance of Veterans Day.

Over the decades, members of the Earl T. Winehart American Legion Post 96 in Snohomish lost track of the Winehart family. When Dick Myrick, 76, became historian of the post about five years ago, he set out to reintroduce veterans to the origin of its name.

He contacted Snohomish historian Ann Tuohy, who found that Winehart was born about 1886 and was a private in Company E, 157th Infantry, American Expeditionary Force. His father was a Civil War veteran who is buried in the Grand Army Republic Cemetery in Snohomish.

Myrick discovered that Winehart is buried in Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery in Romagne-sous-Montfaucon, France.

Alice Stockton Konze, a former member of the Snohomish post who now lives in Virginia, knew that her father played sports with Winehart in Snohomish. She took pictures of the gravesite during a visit to France.

“We all know what a tragedy the fighting in France was, but the French have a lot of honor for fallen participants,” Konze wrote. “It is unbelievable how many English, French, Australian, Canadian, Newfoundland, South African and German graveyards there are, all of which are tenderly cared for. At one of the German sites, I overheard a mother say to her son, ‘Yes, they were the enemy, but we owe them our respect’.”

Respect for Winehart is shown by the Snohomish post by placing a floral decoration on the grave marker on the anniversary of his death. The post arranges the memorial through the American Battle Monuments Commission.

Perhaps you remember a column I wrote July 21 about how the commission helped a Stanwood-area man find his brother’s grave in France. I’m pleased to mention such a terrific organization again. Writing about good deeds makes my day.

Former Snohomish County Executive Willis Tucker, who died in June, helped the Legion take a progressive attitude toward charity work during his two terms as post commander. Projects include giving scholarships, poppy sales, veterans relief activities, holiday baskets for the needy and supporting Quest for Healing, an organization that helps veterans revisit Vietnam.

For several years, I’ve written FYIs about another Legion project – proper disposal of damaged flags. Dick Myrick calls each year with that information. Born in Snohomish, Myrick lives a block from where his mother was born. He served 27 years in the Army and saw action in World War II and the Korean War. His list of medals includes the Bronze Star and Meritorious Service Medal.

If his Army years weren’t enough government service, he followed with 17 years working for the post office.

He said taking on his post office job was a natural. The history buff has a collection of regimental insignias and a deep interest in military memories. Imagine how pleased he was when a woman found an old letter, sent from Winehart to an acquaintance, in her grandfather’s trunk.

I tingled to hold the yellowed letter mailed from Camp Kearny in California in 1918.

“Dear Friend,” it began. “I am here in the sunny south. I’ve been here a week. Our trip down was some sight for us fellows who have not traveled much.”

That year, he was sent to France.

That year, Winehart died for our country.

One might wonder why a Snohomish veteran might care about one dead World War I soldier. To answer that question, Myrick took off his glasses and wiped his brow. After he came home a master sergeant from the Korean War, he was given the solemn duty of escorting veterans bodies to their hometowns.

“I saw the tears of the families,” Myrick said. “It was a hell of a deal.”

Let’s remember veteran sacrifices from all wars on Saturday. Even better, let’s honor their duty around the calendar.

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