Garretson Legion - Post 23 History

The history of the Garretson Legion has been documented for many years at the service of the Post Historian. The following is the "Preface" which was written between 1934-1935 by Lawrence Chester Shafer, the Post Historian at that time.

Preface

Peace and contentment seemed to rule the world on a certain June afternoon in the year 1917. A smiling sun shone down on the countryside flooding the rolling hills with a warm radiance that comes only on those rare days in June. Fleecy coulds smiled majestically out of the West, traversed the blue immensity of the sky and disappeared into the East. Their shadows racing madly across hill and valley gave one the impression of swift ships sailing to some secret rendezvous over the horizon.

Up the gentle slopes of the hills the new corn stood in ordered rows. Neat in new uniforms of tender green, each hill stood like a soldier at attention awaiting the word of command. Close by, the fields of grain billowed in the gentle breeze like miniature oceans of green.

Off to the northward a flock of gulls--white wings flashing in the sun--screamed and dove for the few small worms left in the tiny trenches turned up by a plodding plow. A kingfisher dove for minnows in the sparkling river. A mother duck, convoying her new brood across the river, swam in eccentric circles about her flock as she scolded and instructed them in the ways of life. A hugh turtle slid silently from the muddy bank to disappear beneath the surface of the water and a moment later a startled duckling gave vent to an agonizing peep, struggled for a moment and disappeared forever into the depths. High up in the sun a great hawk planed on motionless wings, his fierce eyes searching every inch of the terrain below. The innocent bits of life on the ground, sensing the meance of this soaring marauder, scurried for cover under stones or in holes, for well they knew that crashing death would be their lot once they came under the glaring scrutiny of those merciless orbs.

A farmer mowed the edge of his corn field and the clatter of his mowing machine shattered the quiet of the afternoon. Before the chattering staccato of the sickle bar the new corn trembled a moment and slid silently to the ground to wither in the sun.

A small boy chopped listlessly at the few weeds that grew between the hills of corn.

Up the dusty road to the cemetery an old lady, her arms filled with the first blooms of spring, plodded slowly to lay her sweet offering on the grave of her pioneer husband.

A baby cried from its crib in a door yard.

Peace and contentment seemed to rule the world on this rare day in June, 1917.

But all was not peace this day. True--a bountiful nature had provided a scene of tranquil beauty. True--God had showered His multiple blessings down on this tiny bit of His universe. But all this was lost to the eyes of the people in the Village on the banks of the river. And all this was lost--not because these people were unmindful of the blessing of nature, nor because they did not acknowledge the glory of God--but, because, on this particular afternoon, the first of the young men of the town had marched off to war.

Now in the pages that follow we are not concerned with the cause of the war. Neither are we concerned with the names of these first young men who so gallantly laid down their daily tasks to take up arms in defense of the ideals of a great nation. Nor are we concerned with the acts of individual achievement of heroism of these young men or the men that followed them during this great war. We only know that during the agonizing and terror ridden months which followed there was a war--a war so terrible, so cruel and so embracing of all the peoples of the world that no one dared dream of its outcome. We do know that the young men of the nation were welded into a great army, and like the hills of new corn, they stood resplendent in new uniforms awaiting the word of command. The word came and the men marched into the sunrise. With firm, measured step they marched--proud endless columns of them--into the blazing inferno that was the war.

The clattering mowing machine of the farmer became the chattering machine guns of the enemy before whose blast men trembled a moment and slid silently to earth to wither and die in the sun. The billowing fields of grain became the wheat fields of France and cannon harvested men and grain alike. The fleecy clouds became great ships in reality, sailing forever into the east, carrying thousands and thousands of men to fight on foreign soil that the world might be made safe for humanity. Mother ducks in the form of huge battle ships still convoyed their broods from shore to shore and the turtle submarines of the enemy still took toll of the duckling ships that strayed from protection. The screaming gulls evolved into swift fighting planes which still picked the few poor worms in the trenches that criss cossed the battle field. The kingfisher still dove but now on wings of death in the form of great aeroplanes which harrassed the minnow submarines beneath the surface of the sea. Draft boards hewed the unfit from the ranks and only the finest men of the nation fought beneath the stars and stripes of its glorious banner.

Women still carried flowers to the graveyard to place them sorrowfully on the empty graves of loved ones who lay buried on foreign soils.

Innocent people scurried into cellars and holes to avoid the glaring searchlights and crashing death of the Zepplins which, like great hawks, circled endlessly in the sky.

Babies still cried in dooryards for fathers whose loving face they would, perhaps, never see again.

The rivers no longer sparkled but ran sluggish and red as if dyed with the blood of men.

WAR--with all its fiendishness, all its terror, all its heartbreaks--raged, swept over the face of the earth, and was suddenly still. On a cold November daybreak in 1918 the great powers who had caused this terrible conflict declared an armistice. The armies dispersed and scattered to the four corners of the earth. The village by the river again knew the faces of its young men. However, they were no longer the laughing, carefree faces of the youngsters who had marched away a few short months before. Each face now bore the indelible stamp of an unforgettable experience, and in their eyes one could discern a look of youth grown suddenly mature. A baffled, frustrated look it was; yet there was in it that gleam of grim determination to forget the loss of the happiest years of life and to piece together again the threads of their hopes and ambitions which had been so violently broken.

It is not for this book that some of them succeeded, some of them failed, and some of them gave up entirely to wander aimlessly through life, their minds forever reliving the terrors they had endured. Neither shall we dwell singly upon the misfortunes of those men, broken in body and spirit, who are doomed to spend the rest of their days in various hospitals throughout the land. However, the never ending battle for the rights and happiness of these unfortunate comrades shall occupy a prominent place in the pages that follow.

As we have said--this history is not concerned with the individual achievement and heroism of the men during the great war. But we are concerned with their achievements and their sacrifices in that great organization which grew out of that war and which, thank God, serves not the altar of hate and bloodshed but concerns itself with the welfare and the perpetuation of the ideals of our great nation. This organization--the American Legion--has, and will occupy a prominent position in the history of our nation.

The American Legion is in reality an immense army of men and women honorable discharged from all branches of the fighting forces who were called during the great war. It had its birth in Paris, France, in 1919 and has grown to be the largest of all service mens organizations. Its aims, its ideals and its functions are familiar to almost every man, woman and child in the United States. It has its being in small units, or posts, and these posts, like small strands in a huge cable, cleave together to form the tremendous strength which is enjoyed by the American Legion in the halls of our government.

It is about one of these individual posts that this history is to be compiled. This particular post has done much in its own small way to uphold and carry on the tenets of the parent organization--the American Legion. It has graven its name with honor on the national rolls. Its accomplishments are envied in the department. It has conducted itself with great credit in the community where it has its being. And, so that all future generations may read the part this small post played in the affairs of the community, state and nation during its existence the following pages record the history of Heny G. Fix Post No. 23, Department of South Dakota, the American Legion.

In making sure that this history shall be carried on faithfully and conscientiously until such a time as there is only one remaining member in the post, this history shall be known as

"THE LAST MAN IN HISTORY"

of Henry G. Fix Post #23, Dept. of South Dakota, the American Legion. Each chapter therein shall be the fiscal year record of the post, beginning from date of organization and shall be written, not as a minute book copy but, as a saga of the activities of the post during that particular year. And, although from time to time it shall become necessary to mention individuals in this history, every care shall be exercised to give the post, as a whole, credit for any accomplishment which may have department or national scope. Each post commander, during his term of office, shall make special effort to see that his historian carries out the idea of this history and records therein all events--good and bad--which takes place during his administration. At the end of the year, or as soonthereafter as practicable, there shall be held a special "History meeting" whereat the history of the preceeding year shall be read for the approval and adoption of the members of the post. If there be no corrections, or no ommissions, and the history is accepted it shall be placed in the permanent binder and the post commander shall write, with a special pen which shall be forever kept with this history, the French phrase "Faire bonne chere" which means "to do well", but which also contains, (thanks to the volubility of the beautiful French language) a magnificent expression of good luck to the succeeding commander and the members of the post. The post commander shall then sign his name, as will the other officials of the post, and the history shall be thereby closed for the year. After the signing of the last page there shall be served a meal of baked beans, gold fish, dark bread and black coffee to remind those who remain of the days when they wore the O. D. and the blue of the United States fighting forces, and to also remind them that, although they have long been discharged from the military service, they can never be discharged from their obligations to the United States and the American Legion. "FOR GOD AND COUNTRY WE ACCOCIATE OURSELVES TOGETHER."

And when the time comes that all but one member of Henry G. Fix post No. 23 shall have answered their last reveille, that sole remaining member shall take the time honored pen in this book and shall write on the last page of this history that grand old French phrase which meant so much to all the fighting forces of the world, "FINI LA GUERRE". Then, and only then, shall this history be considered complete.

And to those into whose hands this book shall fall on that distant day when taps shall ring out over the grave of the last member of this post--you are charged with guarding and preserving this volume for on its yellowing pages will be written the history of a group of individuals, working as a single unit, for what they firmly believed to be for the good of their community, the state and the nation.

Lawrence Chester Shafer

Post Historian 1934-35

//signatures of officers//

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