Posted 3/22/2020 3:42 PM (GMT -6)
Growing up, my family visited my hometown cemetery often. My family has lived in various houses along the same street, for over 120 continuous years, representing six generations.
At the cemetery, we always visited two military graves, side by side --- the final resting place of my grandfather's two brothers. The brothers died 5 days apart, in the Spanish Influenza Pandemic in October 1918.
Both had recently been enlisted for World War I military duty.
One brother died on an overcrowded transport ship headed for France, while crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Many recruits died onboard the ship named the LEVIATHAN.
The other brother died at a military training camp named Camp Dodge --- hundreds of soldiers, packed together in barracks, succumbing to the flu.
Both bodies were transported back to my hometown, for burial, side by side.
Since public church funerals were banned due to the pandemic, a public memorial was held in the city park after the war, with hundreds of townspeople allowed to gather to pay their respects, at long last.
All surviving World War I soldiers from my hometown, wearing their uniforms, formed a military procession to honor their lost comrades --- my two great-uncles.
The ministers and speakers spoke in honor of my uncles from the bandshell pavilion in the center of the town park --- the pavilion decorated with red, white, and blue patriotic bunting.
Their legacy ... they were serving their COUNTRY when the pandemic hit ...
There was always a feeling of tragic loss, in my grandfather's family --- and the hometown friends and neighbors who had known both of my great-uncles, both just young soldiers when the pandemic hit.
Older relatives who remembered them both said to me often, "Just five days apart ... we lost them BOTH just five days apart ... the FLU took them both ... THE flu."
I grew up, years later, knowing what they meant, when they spoke of THE flu.
The American Legion in my hometown was formed in honor of my uncles, after World War I was over. The American Legion Post in my hometown remains ... dedicated, loyal, patriotic ...
One hundred years later, the graves of my uncles are still faithfully decorated with small American flags by current American Legion members on Memorial Day and the 4th of July.
I see many parallels between that pandemic and this one --- the closing of schools and churches, for example, as the disease crossed borders and afflicted thousands globally.
A century separates the stories of the two pandemics, and yet there are ironic similarities ...
History repeats itself, in unexpected and unforeseen ways ...
Just some historical perspectives, from my family's history,
Iowa State University CYCLONE