A Century Later, Herman, You Are Not Forgotten
One hundred years ago today, 22 July 1918, Pvt. Herman L. Clemmer was killed in action in France. The Great War as it was known at the time took the lives of more than 116,000 Americans. Herman was first buried in France, then re-interred in the New Providence Presbyterian Cemetery, near Brownsburg in Rockbridge County, Virginia in 1932.
Today, New Providence Church remembered Herman's sacrifice in their Sunday service. I brought down the framed certificate signed by President Wilson, with the silk "BROTHER" banner across the top and enclosing some of the long dried flowers from Herman's 1932 Virginia funeral at New Providence. Members of the church were most respectful and moved by this moment of history. But when the pianist began playing and the choir began singing On Eagle's Wings, I was moved to tears.
Below is Herman in uniform at Camp Lee, Virginia before his deployment to France. The images following are of his tombstone and the framed Lady Liberty acknowledging his supreme sacrifice for America...saved from the trash dump out in Nebraska by Jo Ann Rangel and Rick Peterson!
I'm sorry Cousin Herman, you had to lose your life...but we promise we will strive to continue to build America into an even better country than the one you knew a century ago.
My Stunning Veterans Day Surprise
Herman Clemmer was a kinsman I never knew, my grandfather Alva Clemmer's second cousin killed in action in World War One. My only memory of Herman was from DeDad, my father's father telling me of attending Herman Clemmer's funeral years later, in the early 1930s, after Herman's body had been disinterred from his grave in France and brought back to Virginia's Shenandoah Valley.
So imagine my reaction when Rick Peterson, an insurance guy in Omaha, Nebraska emailed me out of the blue last week about finding an elegantly framed memorial to Herman in a trash heap in Bellevue, Nebraska! Was this some kind of Internet scam?
NO! There was too much personal information about Herman Clemmer in this email...and Rick had included his full name and phone number. So I called. And was stunned at their discovery!
Photographs Rick sent confirmed this was the real deal! Not only did the frame contain an image of a kneeling doughboy before Lady Liberty, there was a photo of Herman in uniform at Camp Lee, Virginia as well as a photo of his grave in France. But more poignant was the silk banner across the top bearing the word "BROTHER" and tucked in between the two photographs at the bottom, lay dried flowers 80-plus years old from Herman's funeral at New Providence Church near Brownsburg, Virginia.
JoAnn Rangel, a friend of Rick's, had spotted the framed tribute to Herman in a pile of trash out on the street awaiting pickup by the garbage truck. Sensing history and heritage about to be lost, she took it and thus began the search for someone who "might want this bit of family history."
They decided to contact me on here, Facebook, as I'd mentioned Herman Clemmer in an article about family heritage I had written for the Baltimore Sun in 1997. Talk about serendipity! I'm still stunned at all this...but more importantly, I'm going to make sure Herman's story is never forgotten or discarded again. And thus, on this Veterans Day, I'd like you to tip your hat to a nearly forgotten soldier who gave his life for your country nearly a century ago.
RIP, Herman. Cousin, you will never be forgotten again!
Bataan Death March
William Clemmer (George W. Clemmer) my dad’s first cousin, experienced the horrors of the Bataan Death March and survived. Louise Clemmer, my dad’s sister, interviewed William when he was recuperating in the Woodrow Wilson General Hospital in Fishersville, VA. I recently had the privilege of editing this first-hand account and it has been published in the 2016 edition of the Augusta County Historical Bulletin http://www.augustacountyhs.org/bulletins/
Front and back of telegram, the only correspondence sent by William
With his wife the former June Gardner Hart
With his stepmom, Fern Clemmer, at the family farm in Fairfield