Letters Home: Volunteers

To all those currently protecting our freedom, and to all those who served our country in years past, we offer our gratitude and appreciation this Veterans Day, 2012.

In December 1917, the Skidmore News printed this letter from Paul W. Karr and Douglas Haynes, two Skidmore men who were serving in the Army.

From Illinois
Camp Perry, Dec. 1, 1917
Skidmore News,

Dear Sir, Here is a poem written by Corporal Kline, 108th ammunition train, Camp Logan, Texas, which we found in a Chicago paper.  If you wish to we would like to see it in the paper which we receive and are very glad to get.

Only a Volunteer
Why didn’t I wait to be drafted
And led to the train by a band, out on a claim of exemption,
Oh, why didn’t I hold up my hand?
Why didn’t I wait for the banquet?
Why didn’t I wait to be cheered?
For the drafted men get the credit,
While I merely volunteered.

And nobody gave me a banquet,
Nobody said a kind word,
The puff of the engine, the grind of the wheels,
Was all the good-by that I heard,
Then off to the training camp hustled,
To be drilled for the next half year,
And in the shuffle forgotten,
For I am only a volunteer.

And perhaps, some day in the future,
When a little boy sits on my knee
And asks what I did in the great war,
And his little eyes look up at me,
I will have to look back into those eyes
That at me so trustingly peer,
And confess that I wasn’t drafted,
That I was only a volunteer.

We both like the life here and feel like this is the only life for us as long as the war lasts.  We have only about an hours drill twice a week, also we have plenty to eat and wear.  Now and then we have to go upon a working party, but seldom.

We have seen Marion Owens about three times and today we had a long talk with Ralston McClain.

We enjoy reading the News more than any other paper and wish to thank you for sending it to us.

Yours sincerely,
Paul W. Karr, Douglas Haynes, Radio Co. E. 2 Barracks 727 Camp Perry, Great Lakes, Illinois