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Letter, January 8, 1919

[Letter on color stationery of the American Y.M.C.A.]

Jan. 8, 1918 [misdated, should be 1919]

Ettelbruck, Lux.

Dear Father & Mother -

Your letters of Dec 6 & 12 at hand. The one of the 12th was the one I was so glad to get. You dont know how I feel to hear of you having such a time with your cough & cold. Am mighty glad you went to the doctor about it. As for me - well, three good meals a day, a good big, well ventilated, & heat room to live in and not too much work, plenty of sleep, & out of doors playing and all, in a beautifull little country and fine weather. I can't say I ever in my life felt quite so good - physically - and mentally - I am improving - I believe, for I am making best possible use of my time, learning all I can of the people over here, studying my music and reading best literature I can obtain. still have my little volume by Emerson and a book by Chas. Kingsley. I do this to keep my mind off of home, now that there are no shells & the like to do it for me. I'm afraid its going to be quite a while before you see your laddie safe at home. Jove - do I remember when I used to sing that song - and how we used to discuss this time of trouble coming, but little did either of us think how it was going to effect our lives and little do we now know, how the final outcome will have to do with us.

Mother - maybe it is not just luck that I am among the living, I know you have prayed for me and most earnestly too, but is it possible that the god of all in existance, would look and see to my safety, and me so insignificant in comparison to all that is, how can any one so small expect so much, and again there are others who are greater than I by far, who have died on the field. I can hardly feel worthy of so much notice from one so great, I am such a little drop in this great bucket, there are so many soldiers, for months at a time I've seen nothing but soldiers. And you sure have to fight hard and know your business if you become recognized in this big world.

I do feel recognized to this extent, that I am a representative of one of the greatest, and I think it the greatest nation on earth. But individually - where am I. As it is - so be it - I have nothing to say one way or the other but I hope to learn.

Our band had the honor to play for grande Dutchess Marie Adilaide of Luxemburg, at her great castle or palace. Our first touch with Royalty. One of her gold braid & ornament bedecked soldiers met us at the gate and showed us up thru the great grounds to the palace, thru a great arch in the stone wall or defense portion, and into the court of the palace itself. There the butlers, in their frock tailed coats, trimmed in white & gold - stood in stately fashion, and made us - the representatives of a realy great nation - feel rather insignificient in comparison with our o.d. suits and not an ornament on us; and when you consider what we are and what we have done, and our great nation of free thinking & acting people, who dare and do - you feel sorry for people like these, who still think their rulers are divinely appointed. They are living under such a farce & pretention. You want to wake them up, get them out of the trance they are living in, and see for themselves that their divinely appointed ruler is just as human as they are and that they have as much right for that position as she has. They are in some places waking to the true situation and I have reasons to believe that before long they will be a republic too.

Well - we gave a good concert; saw the Royal family, and and the boys tried to flirt with the princesses as if they were ordinary people, but they did seem to enjoy our music, showed their appreciation in good "Old Champagne."

We felt highly insulted because the rulers of such a little country as this could feel so much our superior, when we knew that the queen and all her 260000 subjects would not make more than a good sized city in our country and there are homes in Chicago that would make her palace look sick in comparison. Such was our first experience with the blue bloods -, well we have good reliable red blood clear thru us and of course could hardly be expected to sympathize with and feel about the situation as they did. Thank God I've been born in a country where - if you don't have much of an opportunity, its possible to create one and go up continually, while here - you advance to no higher plain than the one you are born in.

Having seen the Old ruins at Larochette, or Fells - I now hope to see the old castle of Vianden. It seems to be a wonderful place, and not so far from here, just on the border of Germany & Luxemburg. If I have the good luck to see this place, I will write you of my experience & sensations for it gives you a queer feeling to stand with in walls built so long ago, and inhabited by such great persons as once lived there, and the stories those walls could tell, could walls but speak.

And Mother, if we have to stay here I am glad to be in what we are. It seems queer that the drafts - not all - just the SOS sections - should be shown such marked preference over us. they stay back in towns in France training while we lost many in our ranks, forcing thru the Argonne & up & across the banks of the Meuse "with such stubborn prisistance, utterly breaking their difense position and hastening the collapse of their great military power," and Gen Pershing said in a general order "your achievement which is scarcely to be equalled in American history must remain a source of proud satisfaction to the troops who participated in the last campaign of the war. The American people will remember it as the realization of the hitherto potential strength of the American contribution toward the cause to which they had sworn allegience. There can be no greater reward for a soldier or for a soldiers memory." This is what was said by a big man and we were 45 days in the thick of it. No other div. saw so many days without being relieved. Now these back area boys are being sent home by the thousands and from the looks of things these divisions who participated in the above mentioned battle are going to be the last ones to be sent home. As it is - so be it. The weather is great over here and a good place to spend the winter and spring. And if we do stay I suppose we will go into Germany, and as you say - seeing so many interesting things and every thing considered, time does go pretty fast.

But I would like to be home as much as any man in the American army, and if ever a few Div's deserve being sent home thru the merits of their work & service, I think we m[a]y rightfully claim to be one of the few.

I rec. a card from cousin Ivy today. Just a greeting, but certainly appreciate the remembrance from her. I supposed Guy would be home by time you wrote your last letter and I must say I can hardly understand why he does not at least drop you a card.

Tell Pearl I hope to play my trumpet for her much sooner than I now expect I will have the opportunity to do.

Had to laugh when you mentioned abou[t] old Dr. Arbunkle. I sure would like to talk to the old man for sure.

I have rec. all the pictures sent to me by Della. But I wont hesitate to accept more.

I have sent no money since the one time. I had intended to, but felt I had better keep more on hand. I have spent far too much in this town, but going so long without any manner of pleasure what so ever I could not resist the temptation.

The bonds will be sent to my home address before long as I understand they are just starting to send them out now.

Well mother, If I can only return to you in the condition I am now in, I guess you could realize your best wishes for my well fare. For when given a chance, I will be just as clean and particular in my habits as before my experience in the trenches and all that is past and I don't care to recall.

You say you were surprised to learn the truth about the organization Ward is in, well when Illinois boys get back, especially of this Div. as I know of it in particular - she is going to hear much more for I did not begin to tell it all. Hoping you are much better, I close with all my love for you all -

Paul B Hendrickson

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January 1919