In celebration of Military Appreciation Month, I thought it would be nice to recognize the Hindman Settlement School’s history of service members and highlight the sacrifices made during the early years of the 20th century. The first photo pulled from the archives depicts three young men, who volunteered to fight for the freedom of this nation. Out of the 2.8 million soldiers that fought overseas from 1917 to 1918, over 320,000 were killed, injured, or died from sickness spread throughout the damp, packed trenches. The men in this picture had no idea the hell that awaited them across the ocean but dawned their uniform, ready to defend the American spirit from the tyranny of the axis powers.
Of the men who faced physical trauma, many more suffered from the psychological scars that came from the war, especially one as entrenched and miserable as the first world war. These men watched their friends die in front of them and were forced to stay tucked in what was essentially a large ditch with lifeless bodies. These soldiers trudged through mud, disease, and blood while rats feasted on the bodies of their friends. Sadly, these soldiers, most of whom had never left their family farm, endured these horrors first-hand in a foreign land because they believed in this country and its people. Those who didn’t lose their life lost their livelihood; mere children were tossed into the traumas of war, seeing things no man should ever witness. Although they had left the front lines, the smoke and explosions lived in their thoughts.
The second archival photo shows another young man, wrapped in his puttees, proudly posing with his family. Considering the many that seen no man’s land and the tragedies of war, this poor soul probably refused to speak on the terrors he faced while buried in that muddy trench, bullets burning holes in the air above his head, daring him to look over the edge of the trench. Having endured the atrocities of World War I, it is only fitting that we recognize the incredible sacrifices of these men that protected the liberties that we take for granted every day.