Friday, November 11, 2016

Armistice Day–Now Veterans Day–and My Grandfather

In the United States, November 11 was Armistice Day, observed in commemoration of the signing of the armistice ending World War I in 1918. Since 1954, it has been incorporated into the observances of Veterans Day. My grandfather was a WWI veteran who fought in some of the worst battles in France. He was Charles J Churchman (Senior), a Lieutenant and a Captain of the Marines in the “Fighting 6th Marines”. My brother, John Churchman, did some research into him for specifics. Our grandfather’s commendation for the French Croix de Guerre is framed and hangs on the wall, as does the image of him in uniform. He also received the Silver Star Citation and was wounded 3 times. At least once, severely. He fought in the battles of Verdun, Chateau Thierry, Belleau Wood, Aisne-Marne Offensive, St. Mihiel and the Battle of Blanc Mont Ridge.
Apart from his war service, he was an amazingly talented and good man who died far too young. We will never know and can only guess why he collapsed in his early forties, leaving an adored wife and four small children behind. My father was only three at the time of his death. I have often wondered if an overlooked fragment of shrapnel eventually found its way to his heart. Others have different theories. Even though I never knew him, his loss has affected me deeply. Like ripples on a pond, his untimely death circled out to encompass my generation. He is loved and admired even now.
More of him my brother gleaned: “Second Lieutenant Charles J Churchman of Staunton Va former football and basketball star at the University of Virginia was cited for bravery shown while commanding a trench mortar platoon in the operations in the Bois de Belleau on June 6 and 8, 1918, The citation reads, Commanding the Trench Mortar Platoon in the operations in the Bois De Balleau on June 6 and 8, 1918, contributing in a large measure to the success of an attack *** and from the testimony of prisoners their fire had a demoralizing effect upon the enemy machine guns. He placed his guns in position on the night of June 6 upon an emergency order and remained with his guns without relief until June 15. The professional ability, the operation of the mortars within a stone’s throw of positions, the untiring efforts of this officer have been highly commendable at all times.”

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