That is a long title, although Fred's story is sadly much shorter. As a young man in 1917, Fred had asked Sina Juanita Angerman, a girl he had courted for several years, to be his wife. Fred had been playing baseball in Arizona and Juanita moved there to be with him after their wedding in August. However, in October of 1917, Fred was drafted into the Army and sent to Kansas. Juanita went with him to his training in Kansas, where he was able to see her on weekends.
Juanita found out she was pregnant and moved back to her home in Oklahoma to have the support of her family. Fred had planned to take a few furlough days upon the birth of his child, but that was not to be. Instead, two days after his daughter, Mona Katherine, was born in May of 1918, Fred was shipped out to France.
What followed were a series of beautiful letters, from Fred Lee to his wife and daughter, some with the location censored altogether, some that just said, "France." Fred Lee could not tell his wife or daughter that he was stationed on the front lines of the battle, at St. Mihiel, and later at Meuse Argonne.
On November 1, a major offensive had been planned, to commence at 5:30 a.m. Though the fog provided excellent cover, "Sergeant Lee was wounded with a German Artillery shell in one leg just above his ankle at about 6:00 a.m., November 1, 1918."
Fred sent one more letter to his wife and daughter on November 9th, but Juanita did not receive it until much later. In it, he said he was in "Base Hospital 77. Am feeling better today. Will be out in a few days."
The next communication regarding her husband Juanita received was not a letter. It was a telegram.
DEEPLY REGRET TO INFORM YOU THAT IS OFFICIALLY REPORTED THAT SERGEANT FRED D. LEE MACHINE GUN BATTALION DIED NOV TWELFTH FROM WOUNDS RECEIVED IN ACTION.
Fred Lee never got to see his daughter, Mona Katherine, who also happens to be my grandmother.
Armistice Day is celebrated every year on 11 November to commemorate the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiegne, France, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front of World War I, which took effect at eleven o'clock in the morning--the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" of 1918.
Roughly 20 million people died in that war, including my great-grandfather. I think of him every Veteran's Day, the good-natured, twenty-four year old young man who never met his child. And of my great-grandmother, who not only raised her daughter alone, but went on to have a career as a teacher and a principal, later traveling the world to see the places she and Fred had dreamed of seeing together.
Thinking of all veterans today. Your sacrifice is deeply felt.
RIP, Fred D. Lee