Thomas Brennan's family grew and as teens became young adults, they accepted many jobs to help support the family. Yet, Thomas gave his sons one requirement, “Serve your country.” James served in the Civil War, Harold, WWI. There were many other sons in the Brennan Family who served but this is about Harold, my father-in-law. As I said previously, Harold served in World War 1 as a Private in the 308th Infantry. Yes, like his siblings and relatives before him, enlisted. He was proud to serve. His nightmare was about to begin. He and his battalion fought bravely following the orders given to their leader, Major Charles Whittlesey. They carried two forms of communication: radio and pigeons. They were headed to the Argonne Forest to push the German army back and regain control for France. They were flanked by the French soldiers on one side and the English on the other – or so they thought. The Argonne battle ensued on October 2, 1918. The Germans thought the Americans would never fight for something that didn't belong to them and pushed on. They fought hard; our American troops fought harder. The Germans sent their best snipers. They weren't good enough. Then they were gassed. While hundreds of American troops died, others forged on. The Germans sent in their “storm troopers” with flame throwers to either discourage or kill the American soldiers. The Americans persisted. The American troops suffered horrific confrontation with the enemy. They were also hungry, thirsty, and were running out of ammunition. They radioed their command post but received no answer. They tried again. Same result. A scout went send out only to find the radioman KIA, the lines cut, and the radio box destroyed. They soon realized – they were alone – alone in a foreign land with the enemy surrounding them. They had one hope left. Cher Ami! A baby pigeon with truly little experience in “home travel,” but they had to try. After attaching a brief message to her leg, they kissed her beak and let her fly. They watched as the bullets from the German rifles soared in the air strategically aiming at the little bird. Finally, they lost sight of her. Some of the solders prayed while other began to lose hope. Major Whittlesey took a headcount. About 194 soldiers were still standing. The others were either killed, captured, or missing. He took inventory of the remaining weapons. Approximately fourteen rifles were in working order, but they only had about six bullets left. As Major Whittlesey was about the sit down with his men and report his findings, he realized everything was quiet. Too quiet. Suddenly, the major heard what sounded like vehicles. Vehicles? The Germans wouldn't approach with trucks and or tanks, would they? Then he heard his name. “Major! Major Whittlesey!” The voice was American. Then Major stood and saw his commanding officer, General Alexander heading towards them with other men, jeeps, and a transport truck. The battle for the forest was over. The Germans, underestimating the Americans, retreated. Harold married his fiancé in 1819 and soon welcomed their first child, Harold Jr. Not long after, his health began to wane. He coughed, wheezed, and often struggled for breath. He was diagnosed with tuberculosis. He was sent to a facility for six months to treat him. Home again, he was ordered not to dine or interact with his wife and son. Close contact was forbidden for another six months. Once the doctors felt he was regaining his health, his normal activities resume but so did the nightmares. For six days, he had no idea if he would live or die in the heavily vegetated forest in France. He sat, slept, ate, and breathed in the damp cold atmosphere with dead bodies strewn around him. And yet, he still insisted that his sons serve the country that he loved. While I never met Harold, he passed away due to a massive heart attack before I met my husband, I will always admire the bravery he and his fellow soldiers demonstrated in France. Truly, they are all heroes.
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