Sunday, May 26, 2013

Remembering The Brawny Armed men of the 809th Pioneer Infantry

My Grandfather, Sam Walton Jr.

Grandpa Sam's Headstone
Oak Cemetery, Ft. Smith, Arkansas

My grandfather served in France with the 809th Pioneer Infantry and like many, their task was confined to those of stevedores. The work was hard and strong men were needed to unload supplies needed for the front. Because of their color, few in the pioneer infantries were allowed to fight, but the men of Pioneer infantries served nobly and without complaint.

Eventually some of these men were absorbed into French units where they did see battle and many gave their lives also for the freedom that their descendants would have to wait another 40 years to enjoy.

But whether they served as stevedores at the docks or on the front, like the 361st eventually did, all of these men of color embraced their tasks and served their nation with honor.

Black Soldiers of WWI on t he March

It can truly be said of these American soldiers and their ilk in the campaign in France that 'the colored troops fought nobly'". Photo and quotation from "America's War for Humanity"

In my grandfather's honor on this Memorial Daym 2013, I once again include this poem written in honor of the Pioneer Infantry stevedores.

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Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Mothers I Miss

The mothers I have known.
Left - Sallie Walton, my gr. grandmother 1863-1961
Center - My mother Pauline Walton  1919 - 1997
Right - my grandmother Sarah Ellen Bass Walton 1896 - 1978

Mother's Day is always a strange day for me. 

I now understand why my own mother never truly liked the day either. She was raised by her grandmother and aunt. She loved both of them dearly, and she always said that once they were gone mother's day was a strange day for her. In spite of the flowers and gestures of appreciation and love shown towards her on that day, she longed for and missed the two women who had nourished her so much.  Her own mother was Lily Martin, a beautiful woman who died as a young mother, succumbing to tuberculosis like so many people did in the 1920s. 

My mother's mother Lily Martin

Because she died so young, I would often stare at this beautiful portrait of her, wondering who she was, what she liked, how she saw life in her few short years. Her smile however, was always a part of my childhood, and through the words of my mother, Lily was always there. My mother Pauline was less than a year old when her mother passed, and she often spoke of how she wondered what it would be like to have a mother, but then she would always point us though that she did grow up with lots of love around her, and she had the privilege of knowing a grandmother's love.

Now my own mom has gone, and though I can smile now that she has finally met her own dear mother, and is with her grandmother once again, I feel the words she often spoke about this day. It is a day to marvel at the fact that life emerged from the mothers, but the longing is still there.

But I also reflect now on the other mothers that I have known. My grandmother Sarah Ellen Bass Walton was always the other house where I spent time. She and my gr. grandmother Sallie lived together on the corner of 12th and T street for 40 years. It was not till I was an adult that I realized that they were mother-in-law and daughter in law and not mother and daughter. 

Grandma and Nannie--I spent countless hours and days there at their house, playing in the backyard and marveling that the incredible vegetables growing the huge backyard garden, and being dazzled by the colors of the flowers in the front yard garden. And I recall tasting the ripe persimmons that would fall off the big tree in the front yard. 

The sights and smells of Grandma's house were so distinct. The smells of everything from hot coffee brewing on the stove to Grandma's chicken & dumplings, are there. I can even recall the scent of the tins snuff that both of them occasionally dipped, as all of these are a part of my memory. Those days were the days of innocence and fun and my childhood, and all of these ladies were there.

Yes, today is a strange day for me. But I do appreciate the next generation of mothers, and aunties and sisters and big mamas who carry forth the same spirit of love and guidance. 

Olivia Walton Dedner & Ella-Marie Lillian Dedner, the next generation.

But one's own mother---the smiles, the hugs, the warm embraces, meant so much. The tears she wiped, the scraped knees that she bandaged, the songs she sang, and the words of comfort, are all remembered. The sweetness of her voice and the kindness of her spirit, and the melody of her laugh, I recall all of them.

Today provides lots of opportunity to reflect and appreciate the mothers and grandmothers and gr. grandmothers, and aunties on this day. They are all loved, and all remembered.

And yes, on this day, I do so terribly miss my mother. I will always love her.

Pauline B. Moore Walton
1919 - 1997