Friday, January 13, 2012

OK, now I feel bad about taking a cheapshot at the French in my last post

PFC Kent Potter was a US dough boy in Unit 139, 134th Infantry Division, Company M, US Army fighting with the Allied Expeditionary Force in France.  He was a  farm boy from Chase County, Kansas when he enlisted in 1917 to go fight the Kaiser.  Probably because of his agricultural background, he was assigned to the supply chain as a mule cart driver.  Undoubtedly he faced everything from caissons to mustard gas as he reached the front lines on each trip.  One could easily envision his mad dive into a trench which caused his dog tag to pop off.  His now 75 year old son remembers his father telling of the time he lost his helmet in a mad rush to get his mask on before gas got to him (though he later developed emphysema a result of the gas he inhaled) when he certainly could have lost his dog tag.  Or maybe it was just so darned hot that he had to take his helmet off and caught the chain around his neck one July day.  We will never know because Private Potter has long since passed on.  However, we do know that he did in fact lose his tag.  We also know that he made it back alive from the war and went on to raise a family.  While he was "over there" he sacrificed, risked all and was wounded for his country surely, but also he did it for our allies and for liberty.  Ninety four years later, a couple of Frenchmen still remember and appreciate the sacrifices made by that young farm boy from Chase County, Kansas as well as those made by many others.  Michael Jean Toussaint and Cluade Finderflick often scoured the battlefield in Liverdun Lorainne, France with metal detectors for artifacts from the nearly century ago battles.  They then sold the items to eager and well paying collectors on ebay.  Except when they came across a few dog tags they decided that they just couldn't sell them for profit.  They had to at least try to return them to the families of the soldiers who had crossed and ocean to fight and often die in defense of French freedom.  With a bit of help here and there, they finally found Kent's son, Dale (below).

Dale Potter holds his father's WWI dog tags after they were discovered on a French battle field.

And though the tag should have returned around the neck of Private Potter almost a century ago, it finally made its way home, albeit to the Chase County Historical Museum in Cottonwood Falls.  Thank you Messrs. Toussaint and Finderflick.  Your gesture is appreciated.

1 comment:

Dave H said...

One of the things we do well to remember is that often the government of a nation doesn't speak for the people of that nation. We may not like the government of France, their policies or their decisions, but that doesn't mean the French people are all lechers and snobs.