Above: The names of thirty Gratiot County Men who appear on the Gratiot County All Wars Memorial in Ithaca, Michigan.
Welcome to “Thirty Who Dared to Serve Gratiot County in the Great War.” It is very possible that you may be the only person who will read this article (or any of the thirty to follow) regarding those men from Gratiot County who died in World War I.
I have spent roughly the last two years looking at these names and doing the research in an attempt to bring these thirty men’s stories back to life. What you will find here is hopefully a little more than just what newspapers from that time tell us. Still, these men still do not have the full recognition for their service and the ultimate sacrifice. They were people who lived here a century ago. They lived life, they had dreams, many had families. In all of their cases, they failed to get what I did, which is chance to live out their lives.
The first few stories will be somewhat slow in coming to you. Why is that? It is hoped that each of these stories will appear at or near the time of the anniversary (in this case the centennial) of their deaths. By next summer, because some of these men died in combat in the summer and fall of 1918, you will find stories appearing quite frequently. In between, I hope to have stories for you regarding what was going on in Gratiot County, aside from the current “Gratiot County in the Great War” series that appears monthly. (I also want to note that “Journeys with a Gratiot Cemeterian” is going to be back – watch for it)
As in war, these thirty stories are moving, sad, inspirational, even daring (hence the title). Some of these men wanted to serve in battle and never got there. Some died in the Influenza Epidemic. Several died fighting in France. Other stories appear unbelievable, like Gratiot County’s only Naval fatality which may have taken place in the Bermuda Triangle. Another tragedy occurred with a boy who literally went to war -at barely the age of sixteen- and who died in France. A few others died literally after the Armistice was signed, examples of how war can continue to claim its victims.
So, again, you might be the only person who reads these stories. But, these thirty men that you read about in the next 14+ months deserve to have their stories told and they should not experience “the Second Death,” which is the death of being forgotten.
I hope you find the stories meaningful. As with all research and writing, frequently there is someone who knows something more about a veteran. Please let me know and I hope we can more fully honor these men with more information.
So, to start the series, we meet a man who was named Frank E. Huntoon who was from Bridgeville and St. Louis, Michigan.