This handsome devil is my paternal grandfather, Harris Cook, who would have been 120 years old this year, and served in the US Navy in WWI. He was a deck gunner on a warship and was mortally wounded during a sea battle 100 years ago, sustaining severe injuries to his head and body.
According to family lore, he was taken to the Royal Edinburgh Infirmary, where a doctor leading a triage team examined him then remarked to the rest of the team that they should leave him to die, as he wouldn't last the night. My grandfather supposedly told him "I'll outlive you, you son of a bitch!" He ended up with a silver plate in his skull, a silver plate in one leg, and my dad remembers my grandmother picking bits of shrapnel out of his back in the mid-1930's. Also part of the lore surrounding him was the night he was discharged from the Infirmary. Supposedly he and some friends he made there walked into the city, got stinking drunk, and climbed up the Sir Walter Scott memorial.
He died 32 years later as a result of his injuries. In 1965, my dad and uncles succeeded in convincing the V.A. his death was due to those injuries so my grandmother could receive benefits. There was a framed letter from Lyndon Johnson on the wall near this picture recognizing his service and death. As a child, the text of that letter was so abstract and foreign to my six-year-old mind. I always wondered what he would have been like to know, and phrases he said, mostly in anger, were a part of the family lexicon growing up (my favorite is "couldn't pour piss out of a boot if the instructions were printed on the heel"). I purchase a poppy from the VFW every year in his memory. Now that there is no veteran from this war left alive, it's even more important to remember this as a time where advances in technology exceeded not only our humanity, but the capacity to deal with both the physical and emotional damage that destroyed a continent and an entire generation, as well as sewing the seeds that grew to an even more horrific and destructive conflict that engulfed the world leaving no continent untouched.
#veteransday #armistice100 #armisticeday #wardead #ww1 #remembranceday #poppies