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Letter, February 17, 1919

[Letter on color stationery of the American Y.M.C.A. Received March 11, 1919.]

Feb 17 1919

Ettelbruck Luxemburg

My dear father & mother -

Yesterday nite I rec. your letter of Jan 25 and cannot begin to express my appreciation. In the afternoon my nerves had reached the place where something had to be done. So I started down town - was nothing there as usual to interest anyone. and I simply had to keep walking. So to make it more occupying to my mind & body I picked out the highest mount around here & went for the top of it. The view from the top is wonderful. for you are really on top of something - ground slopes rapidly down on all sides - you can see for miles in every direction - beautiful ridges & wonderful valleys going off in their winding, picturesque ways. Small and large villages dotted in here and there and you can see a number of them from this point - still I was restless - dissatisfied - came down - got supper - and walked steadily over town for fully 2 1/2 hours - No more feeling of fatique than if I had just started. So I came into our room and some mail had just come in & I got the letter which set me at ease at once. Did you realize when you sent it what a wonderful effect it was going to have on your son? Every one of us is in just this condition - only some resort to wine shops to drive away that depressing mood. You feel so worthless - a really marking time in our lives - we accomplish nothing. It seems such a waste. You have no desire to strive for any thing for there is nothing to work for. You - at home - may feel bad because we are not there - you miss us - no doubt; you have been missing us for a couple years now - at one time it was hard to bear - knowing us to be in a great danger - but then is when we had it the easiest - mentaly - for there was something to do - a great thing to be accomplished. We would seem to forget ourselves & the danger in our insane desire to give more than we received. We had made up our minds to accept anything fate had in store for us. Now - all is changed. the excitement gone - nothing to work for - and one great & driving desire to return home - to see the loved ones we left behind - you might say gave up - for when we fought - we gave up all our loved ones as well - so now that we really came thru - alive and well - our desire to get home is greater than some - as our work while at the front was more dangerous than some. And that "some" is being shipped back as quickly as possible while we stay here. I guess they have confidence in us - think if we can bear the burdens of that hell of a front - we can be more trusted with bearing these burdens. we are experiencing now - something of what you did while we were at work - we felt so helpless - and I expect very unoccupied and in a rather bad state of mind at times - we are just as unoccupied now and no end in sight to look forward to for relief. I don't suppose to hear this is any great relief to you. But I want you to know the truth.

If we have to stay over here I am glad to see the s.o.s. being sent home. The more the better - for we are just now beginning to get some of the jams and candies and other articles that we were supposed to get all along that really never got farther than the s.o.s. as we have sworn statements to that effect. What they did not want - was sent to the front where the boys that were exposed to the dangers were. So I hope to god they are all sent home - (if we have to stay) for then we will get all that belongs to us - & no thieving set of back area men will be there to eat it up for us. That is just another little item of "no importance" that is important.

Along with every thing else comes my wisdom teeth - one after the other they come thru. Third one is out now & 4th one ready to make its appearance. I used to look on them as being apart from me. thot I had no room and made up my mind to have them pulled as soon as they got thru far enough to get hold of them with forceps. But its just like a mother than don't want any more children. when they come they are as proud of them as the rest, and while they did not want them now that they are here - would not part with them for any thing.

We organize a secret order every few nites in the band.A few gets together, gets some wonderful names & signs then spring it on the bunch. For initiation; we would put to shame the Eagles, Moose and Red men all put together. And they point that our secret order is distinctive of all others is that it is useless to put in an application to join. We pick our members and initiate them until they swear allegiance - and generally that makes firm members of them, for they will then stick thru thick or thin to get a chance for revenge by helping to initiate some other unlucky soul who happens to fall victim to our desires. One fellow called in a guard one nite to help him. But the guard saw the situation immediately and enjoyed the fun as much as any. Once in a while the ceremony calls for music - line up in single file and march thru the grounds & all thru the big 3 story building we live in - soldiers & town people all turn out to see the fun. They enjoy the music. Today 2 conflicting "orders" came together in a free for all - one man on my side about got his back punctured & we bloodied one fellows nose on the other side - but outside of that everyone enjoyed it very much.

Of all the absurd coo coo things we do it would be impossible to narrate - and I honestly believe before long we (the band) will all be evacuated and sent to a hospital for - insanity. We live in a nut sanitarium and we are bigger nuts than any of the inmates of the asylum. No one cares for any thing - like a bunch of wild men of an evening - making so much noise now I can hardly consentrate my mind enough to write.

They tell us that our Hdq. co is billeted as well as the very best in the A.E.F. at present. And we surely cannot complain. You were asking about our organization. The commanding officer of a regiment is the colonel. a regiment is composed of 16 units called companies. each company has a captain commanding. In our 129 infantry regiment we have col Meyer - a regular army officer. Hdq. co. is one of the 16 units under his command. Our Hdq. co is composed of band, signals, one pound cannon, and trench mortar plattons - all special units. Companies a b c d etc. are rifle companies for they are all rifle men, 12 of them, then there remains Mch gun co - supply co & Medical detachment, 16 in all. That may yet be as clear as mud to you - but is about the best I can explain in a letter.

I have no receipt of any kind to show that I have taken out a few liberty bonds. The least little mistake on their part could set me back $150 with no trouble at all.

I forgot to mention that Lieut. Kimmell is now our acting captain - he was sergt & I stayed in same tent with him the last month or more while in Quincy. I think him a mighty fine & square man - for I learned to know him pretty well then and he seems pretty much the same man yet only more reserved and his time is more occupied.

Men of volintary enlistment - as I was when I enlisted had not the chance to get the $10 extra allotment, as I was not married and had no one as an absolute dependency. The drafted boys could easily claim dependancy and as they had to go any way - there were no if's & and's about it, they got the allotment & nothing said, needed or not needed as the case happened to be.

Just another little item of no importance where one was slipped over on the man of voluntary enlistment - God - what a fool a man is - to do any thing not compulsory - for to offer your service seems to place you far below par.

Well mother I know of no one whom I'd rather see & visit these old places over here with than you. We have lived so long together - know each other's likes & dislikes - what would be interesting for me would be for both of us, and I could appreciate my opportunities more with company like yours, for it would seem more worth while, so many points we could remember together, and bring up later and talk of them, points that would be of value to remember. I have not the power to describe and picture these places to you as you would see them - I only wish I had - yet that is not like seeing it yourself.

So you wore my knit scarf. Well I sent it home - more for that purpose than any other, for very little I'd use it and same way with knit sweaters - wear any of those articles you wish - I only hope they can be of more service to you. Say but I wish I could be home when Uncle Joe comes, which would be in a few days now I suppose.

I never rec. Olans 12 pg. letter. I guess I got the one he wrote later for I have a couple or three from him up until now. Have answered all he has sent. I am glad you are keeping the clippings for they will be more interesting for me when I am home and can talk with you about them. Things concerning ones at home - ones I know - I like to read them of course. Had to laugh about your dozen eggs you got the other evening. Say - I would like to put a few of those under cover. Haven't tasted an egg for so long - it will be like a new diet to me when I can get some more.

You told me to send cards from different places. I guess I have already done that, if only you get them all. I sure will have a good collection. Am sending four more - one, another beautiful view of vianden castle - another of a back view and another back view only closer. Then the one with the bridge which is the only one crossing the river within a few kilos on either side.

In itself - the bridge is historical. There is a statue above the railing over the center of the bridge. This man died a martyr. was thrown over the bridge into the river - bound - & of course soon died. All because he refused to reveal some secrets concerning his wife - that the priests wanted to know. She refused to tell & so did he - so he suffered death - what was done to her I don't know. This is just what I heard - have read nothing concerning it. And as for clippings. I guess I will have a very good collection myself before long. Am sending them for my own file - as well as for the news you will get from them.

Well what do you think of some of the little things big men can do - for instance forbidding our service stripes. may be you think we have a great love for some of those big chair warmers that are doing so much for our discomfort. Then they want you to be cheerful & stay in the best of humor which is entirely impossible. I've learned to have a disgust and disrespect for more than germans.

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February 1919