This past week, especially on Monday, we have been remembering veterans and their service in securing freedom for this nation, as well as preserving the liberty we enjoy. Those include those who fought in the American Revolution, several of whom are interred in county cemeteries, all the way to those who presently serve in many locations and various capacities, including one I know who just about the time he and his bride celebrated one year of marriage had to ship overseas for a tour of approximately nine months. It was very hard on both of them. Sometimes we cannot comprehend even the “simple” sacrifices made by our military and their families.
But one of the things I was especially thinking about this week were those veterans who had no one to remember them. For example, Edward A. Young, a native Trojan, who spent the majority of his short life in Columbus, but proudly served during World War I before returning home. His was a hard and sad life, in many ways.
Edward was born in Troy in 1887 to Joseph and Laura Young. His father worked as a farm laborer until his sudden death around 1898 when Edward was about 11 years old. Following Joseph’s death, Laura moved her family of herself and several children to Columbus because she wanted to be near her parents.
Edward worked at several jobs as he matured but, as a young man, secured a position as a porter in a Columbus hotel. It was here that he met his first wife and began life as a married man in July 1909.
Sadness soon followed this happy occasion when about one month after the wedding, Edward’s little brother Ernest was hit and run over by a wagon and died as a result of his injuries. He was about 11 years old. In fact, of the five children that Joseph and Laura had, Edward was the only survivor by 1910.
Sadly, Bessie either died, or she and Edward were divorced because Edward married for a second time in 1918. As far as I have found, Edward and Melissa did not have children. As a matter of fact, the couple’s courtship may have been one of those wartime whirlwind romances. Edward registered for military service on 17 July, 1918 and one month later, 17 August 1918, he and Melissa were wed. Again, one month later, 15 September 1918, he became part of the American Expeditionary Forces. Edward A. Young was assigned to Co. G of the 813th Pioneer Infantry of the American Forces. But part of his service was not just fighting in Europe.
The 813th was an all-African-American regiment and was organized and trained at Camp Sherman in Chillicothe, Ohio. It was later attached to the U.S. Second Army in France, which was a strong fighting force tasked with driving the German forces out of France. Following months of hard fighting, met with stubborn resistance, they had managed to recover 25 miles of French territory prior to the November 11th armistice.
Only about twenty percent of African-Americans were trained for direct combat during World War I. The majority who signed up to do their part became what was known as S.O.S, or Service of Supply units. The men would load, unload and transport various supplies to and from shipyards, loading docks and in the field, as needed. As such they were a crucial link in the armed forces by supplying food, clothing, equipment and other necessary items as the combat forces were engaged in battles.
Other portions of the Pioneer units were used to clear roads, as well as construct roads and bridges for the troops to utilize. One sobering duty included gathering bodies and preparing them for burial.
Following his service, Edward Young was discharged on a surgeon’s certificate of disability. Sadly, one month following his return home, he died. His death certificate stated he died of pulmonary tuberculosis.
Edward left his widow, who was 25 years old at the time of his passing. She later remarried. This WWI vet, did not have parents, children, or descendants to remember him. His service is part of the long line of those willing to put their life at risk for our sake.
Patrick D. Kennedy is archivist at the Troy-Miami County Public Library’s Local History Library, 100 W. Main St., Troy. He may be contacted by calling (937) 335-4082 or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org