Even after 100 years, the world still feels the effects of what was known at the time as The Great War.
The current situation in the Middle East owes much to the divisions imposed on the region as a result of World War I. The U.S. civil rights effort grew out of the segregation and discrimination African-Americans were subjected to as they strove to serve their country in combat.
The war was a great cataclysm. Millions died, and many more millions served. The United States joined the “war to end all wars” on April 6, 1917.
Highlighting tradition of service
For many Americans, that date was also the beginning of a tradition of service, and the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission is looking to highlight those sacrifices.
“In my family, I had a grandfather who served in World War I, my father in World War II, an uncle in Korea, a brother in Vietnam, and I served during the Cold War,” said retired Navy Capt. Chris Christopher, the publisher for the commemoration commission. “We are connected to the World War I generation. It is not so long ago.”
The commission wants Americans to post pictures of their forbears who served during World War I on its website. The Stories of Service feature on the Family Ties portion of the site highlights the soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen who served. Some are formal portraits. Others are clipped from larger pictures. Some are candid shots of service members horsing around, and some are pictures of service members who never came home.
There are visual connections as well. Most soldiers in the photos wear the campaign hat that only drill sergeants or drill instructors wear today. They carry 1903 Springfield rifles – still popular with hunters today.
The units are familiar, also. Many active duty and National Guard divisions formed in response to World War I. The 1st, 3rd, 4th, 7th and 82nd Divisions formed in 1917 and still serve today. The 2nd Division – based now in the South Korea – was half Army and half Marine Corps.
Some of the famous National Guard divisions of the war include the 26th Yankee Division from New England, the 28th Division from Pennsylvania, the 29h Division from Maryland and Virginia, the 77th Division from New York and the 42nd Division – the “Rainbow Division” from many East Coast states.
Christopher said the commission would like those serving today to celebrate their forebears who served to honor the tradition of service.
“I’d like to highlight that tradition,” he said. “I’d like them to load a photo of their great-grandfather serving, and I’d like them to send a photo of themselves serving today. Service members today are carrying on a great heritage, and it is a good way to honor those who came before us.”