This is my third soldier biography in my time spent at high school, in my small town of Smiths Falls. But this bio in particular was somehow more special to me than any other one I’ve done before. I always make very good connections to the soldiers I’m researching. By the end, the soldiers become more of a friend than a just a man who fought in a war 100 something years ago. For me, uncovering their stories and adventures and identities is the most fascinating part of researching a soldier. Sometimes I think we forget that even though these men are heroes, they were once just boys, some working on the family farm, some who wanted to attend college and start a family, some who maybe got into a little trouble here and there. They were people just like you and I, who put down all their future plans and dreams to go fight. Uncovering the stories that make them heroes might be captivating, but I think that the stories that make them just regular people are the most interesting.
So what if my soldier's story wasn’t a mystery? What if it had already been told to me before by my grandparents and aunts and uncles?
Here I was, going into my second tour and researching my great, great Uncle Bob whom my Mother’s side of the family held near and dear to their hearts. I was given a photo of Robert and two of his brothers, and a box, packed with hundreds of beautifully handwritten letters from Robert to his mother, which my grandma so graciously helped me read because I was a little rusty with reading the penmanship in which he wrote in. I was told countless family secrets, some which had me laughing, in tears, or completely shocked about some of the things that had occurred in my family long before I was even thought of. Then it was time to meet him.
I really couldn’t help but feel nervous, I was the very last person to read their bio, and even though all the teachers I had met on the tour had become such great friends in such a short amount of time, I was still so eager to impress them and excited to show them how proud I was of my uncle and the person he was in his letters to his mother. We arrived at the most beautiful cemetery that overlooked the valley. And I wandered through the graves, jittering with excitement upon meeting Robert, clutching on to my biography and one of his letters, typed, so I could read it. And the moment I saw him, I couldn’t help but fight back the tears that threatened to fall, because here, in France, in an unfamiliar place, was someone who was familiar, who was from home, who was my blood. Surrounded by my new family, I read his biography with a smile on my face and tears running down my cheeks. And then his letter, with laughter echoing though the cemetery while I delivered his love for his mother and the rest of his family. And with my final words “Love always, Robert” I bowed my head and smiled, so grateful to be a part of my family and to be able to share my uncle as the person he was.
- Submitted by Emily