Two of my uncles, Jack and Steve, and an aunt Emily served in World War I.
They were the only ones of that generation to do so in my family. My Dad, the baby of the family, was born in 1911 and would later serve in both WWII and Korea. It was up to his brothers Steve and John and sister Emily to do their service when American called.
Uncle Jack [ John Bower Norvell] served in the United States Navy from 1918-1919 as a seaman second class aboard the R.S. Norfolk, the USS Rhode Island, and the USS Delaware. When the war ended, he returned to Buffalo where he worked for the Pullman Company, until he retired.
Emily was a particularly interesting person. She was one of the first women officers in the U.S. Army. Emy, as she was called in the family, was assigned to Walter Reed Hospital where she became a nurse in the officer’s Medical Ward. Misfortune came her way. While nursing a general with spinal meningitis, she contracted the disease. About the time that she had meningitis, a patient kicked her and damaged a kidney. The kidney became tubercular and sometime in late 1928 or 1929 it was removed and she was hospitalized for more than a year. After the war, she became one of the first school nurses in Michigan and later worked as a county nurse. In those days the lumbermen and miners were a lusty lot, so along with her medical bag in her model T Ford, she carried a snub nosed 38 revolver, just to play it safe. She always said that she attributed her recovery from tuberculosis to prayer, but she carried a 38 just to “play it safe, as God helps those who help themselves.”
The final serviceman was Uncle Stevens Thompson Norvell, he was the third of that name in a line going back to the Stevens Thompson Norvell, his great uncle. During the First World War he served in the Rainbow Division, 3rd Engineers. The 42nd Rainbow Division was the first US combat division sent to France. They fought at the battles of theMarne, Chateau-Thierry, and Meuse-Argonne, suffering heavy losses of more than 12,000 casualties in 264 days of combat operations out of 457 days of service on the front lines. Steve never talked about his time in France. After the war he obtained degrees in Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Chemical Engineering at Tri-State College in Indiana.
For their service, they received the World War I victory medal. Like so many of their contemporaries then, and now, they did their duty and returned home as a good citizen soliders to serve there as well.