My parents decided on Donald Kennedy McCreary – fitting for a regular white 23-year-old from good old East Aurora, New York. I came into the world on May 17, 1895, in East Aurora; and a little over two decades later I traveled south for the first time.(7)
I arrived at a place called Parris Island, South Carolina right after I enlisted on February 11, 1918, to fight the Great War for my country. (8) My eyes were opened wide by the training, opened wide like the first time seeing a naked girl. I was robbed of my civilian clothes, issued a uniform and other necessary equipment. It was drill after drill, march after march, class after class, and song after song until my voice cracked and my eyes bled with exhaustion. We learned how to fight trench warfare overseas, how to throw a hand grenade, how to make a bunk just so, how to salute, when to salute, and to whom. In other words, I was robbed of my youth, my innocence, my sense of idealism, privacy, and most importantly – my individuality.(9) I took the time to blink and found myself in further training at Quantico, Virginia. I was assigned to Company B, Replacement Battalion for more programming of the American citizen becoming the proud Marine. (10)
A month late, on June 8, 1918, my number was up to go to France and join my comrades in the 96th Company, 6th Regiment of the United States Marine Corps. (11) Although this was what we had been training for, nothing could have prepared me for the lessons of hate, hunger, and death that were taught in my battlefield classroom. At last the sights and sounds of the war were upon me: the endless gunfire, the constant fear of that shell seeking me out – the cries of the wounded and dying – the cries of comrades losing comrades. Sleep and food were a distant fairy tale, for our attempts to fulfill the latter were interrupted by the dripping faucet of war.(12)
I learned bravery and self-sacrifice from my comrade, Fred W. Stockham who won the Medal of Honor on the field. (13) During an intense enemy bombardment, heavy explosives and gas shells wounded or killed many members of our company. I was ducking in and out of shellholes, my heart beating deep in my chest, thinking only: Keep the mask on; there’s gas; keep the mask on or it’s the end! It was my first time in the trenches; mud was up to my waist, and shells and bullets were coming and going. I didn’t know which trenches were ours and ducked and ducked…It was here the ravages of war were terrible; houses were completely blown apart, the trees chopped in half by shells and bullets, and the air stunk with the smell of human bodies. (14) Suddenly one of our comrade’s gas mask was shot off, and without hesitation Fred removed his own gas mask, knowing that the effects of the gas would be fatal to himself. He continued with unparalleled courage and valor to evacuate the wounded until he collapsed from the effects of the gas, dying a few hours later. He saved may lives before his own was taken, and for the he was a great inspiration to us all. Form then on I vowed to give my life for a comrade, for the life of a comrade outranks one’s own. (15)
On the way back from the front lines one day, I heard about a fellow named David E. Hayden, also in the 6th Regiment, originally from Texas. During an advance, Corporal Creed was mortally wounded while crossing an open field swept by machine-gun fire. Hayden, without hesitation, ran to his side, and found the wounds to be so severe that they required immediate attention. He disregarded his own personal safety and dressed the wound while under immense machine-gun fire, and then carried the wounded man to a place of safety. (16)
It’s amazing the lessons that can be learned from others- all of these stories were bricks building a wall around me, sheltering me from my life.
My division (the 2nd Infantry Division, US Army) was doing well in a counterattack south of Soissons. (17) We advanced eight kilometers in the first 26 hours, and by the end of the second day we were facing Tigny, having captured 3,000 prisoners and 66 field guns. The result of this counteroffensive was very important. Due to the magnificence and power displayed by us on the battlefield of Soissons the tide of the war was turned in favor of of the Allies. (18)
This, however, was the day the angels let down the ladder for me. It was July 19, 1918, when my eyes saw no more of the madness before me. During a bombardment, I was ripped to pieces by the shrapnel. I was unconscious ‘till the end, lucky for me because he pain I would have had to endure was too great for a boy like me. (19)
My brother Robert, of the AEF, wrote my father Charles by cablegram informing him of my death on August 20, 1918, at Vierzy, France. (20) That evening, 16 Linden Avenue was a house, my house, filled with tears. (21) One of my eternal frustrations was that I was gone before I got to see my little sister Lydia get married to Mr. Robert Parsons on October 1, 1921. I hope St. Mathias Episcopal Church was full of people who loved her, for I could only be there in her heart. (22).
The war raged on without me, but back home in East Aurora there was a band concert at 8 P.M. on the Roycroft Campus, and that week, Tony Pellicott bowled a 235. (23)