Remembering is not easy.
We get busy, and we are naturally forgetful, especially about people we never met and places we never visited.
Many of us drive past memorial parks and don’t realize what they are or what they mean. Trees planted to remember fallen soldiers grow old and die; few remember why they were planted in the first place. We drive on streets named for heroes, though few have any idea who they were, or what they fought for.
This fall, it will be 100 years since Francisco Lemos, Sidney Baker and Earl Garrett died in France, all Kerr County men who died in World War I. The three were honored with streets named in their memory because they had fallen in battle. People don’t realize an additional 16 young soldiers from Kerr County also died during World War I; most died from influenza, during the great pandemic that swept the world in 1917-18. They volunteered, trained, and, in many cases, traveled to France when illness struck. They were heroes, too.
The Kerr County War Memorial, on the courthouse square, lists 48 names of Kerr County men who died in World War II.
Six names of Kerr County men are listed as lost during the Korean War.
It’s been 50 years since Robert Glen Chenault died in Quang Nam, Vietnam, one of the 12 Kerr County men who died in that war. I knew Glen Chenault. His parents and my parents were friends, and I spent time with Glen, both at our print shop and at our two homes. I was only 6 when he died, but I have fond memories of him.
Glen, like so many of the men listed on the memorial, was very young, only 21 when he was killed.
Two other conflicts are listed on the memorial: Operation Enduring Freedom, with the name of one fallen soldier, Jacob Leicht; and Operation Iraqi Freedom, with two — Lawrence Ezell and Cody Orr. All three were born much later than I.
Sadly the renovated war memorial has room for more names and more conflicts, a practical concession to the probability the space will be needed. (The impressive wall of names of Kerr County’s fallen at the Cailloux Theater failed to prepare for that necessity.)
Others from Kerr County fought and died for our country in conflicts preceding World War I, and while their names are not listed on the memorial, they are heroes, too.
If these men could speak to us, what might they say?
It would be my guess they would talk about their homes and how much they missed their families.
Several weeks ago, Bob Schmerbeck, who is related to Earl Garrett, loaned me a notebook of letters Garrett’s family gathered after his death. The packet included letters to Earl Garrett, letters from him and letters from others about him, including from those who were with him when he died.
One month before he died, Earl Garrett wrote his mother, Laura Gill Garrett, a touching letter.
“My dearest Mother,” Garrett wrote. “It will probably be only a note, but I wanted to write you tonight. It may be some time before I can write you again and I do not want to neglect this opportunity.
“Mother, it is a long cry from here to home, but never so close as tonight. And never have I been so conscious of what you have done for me or felt so unworthy of your efforts. I could not write a sad letter even if I wanted to; my temperamental make up would not let me. But I do want you to know before anything might happen that I at least appreciate my mother and my father.
“I am habitually optimistic — of the incurable type, less a considerable portion of confidence in my ability. But the great possibility cannot be ignored.
“With love to all, your son, Earl.”
Earl Garrett was just 24 when he was killed in France.
Until next week, all the best.
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who collects historical items from Kerrville and Kerr County.