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"Hindsights"


Looking back at:

Lt. Earl Garrett
A Hero Who
Never Came Home


By Michael Barr
Michael Barr

Mrs. W. G. Garrett last saw her son, Lt. Victor Earl Garrett, as he went off to war in 1918. Now on a summer day in 1930 she began a long bittersweet journey to be with him once again. As she boarded the train her emotions swung from anticipation to deep sadness, and she had trouble keeping her feelings in check.

Her son grew up in Kerrville. At Tivy High School, Earl was on the staff of the school newspaper along with his friend Howard Butt who would one day make a name for himself in the grocery business.

In 1915 Earl enrolled in the University of Texas at Austin to study law but left school to join the army in 1917, a year before the U. S. entered WWI. He was among the first students on the UT campus to enlist.


Lt. Victor Earl Garrett, WWI hero
Lt. Victor Earl Garrett
From the collection of Joe Herring Jr., Kerrville

The army saw leadership potential in Earl Garrett and sent him for officer's training at Leon Springs northwest of San Antonio. By the time he shipped to Europe he was a 2nd Lieutenant in the 28th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division.

The combat service identification badge (CSIB) of the 1st Infantry Division is a large red number 1 on an army green background. The division came to be known throughout the world as the Big Red One.

Gen. John J. Pershing, commander of U. S. troops in WWI, was especially proud of the 1st Infantry Division. Its soldiers were the first American troops to arrive in France in 1917 and the last to leave in September 1919.

Earl Garrett and the 1st Infantry Division charged into battle at places they couldn't pronounce or spell but whose stark images were burned in their memories for the rest of their lives. They recaptured the French town of Cantigny in the first American victory of the war. They fought with distinction at Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne.

Lt. Garrett received a citation for valor and courageous conduct at Soissons on July 19, 1918 when he supervised the care of wounded men in his command without regard for his own safety.

On October 24, 1918, in an attack on enemy lines near Exermont, Lt. Garrett and 3 of his men took 20 prisoners. Lt. Garrett received a citation for exceptional courage during that four-day battle, and the army awarded him the Distinguished Service Cross - the 2nd highest award for military valor next to the Congressional Medal of Honor.


But there was uneasiness back in Kerrville as Thanksgiving approached. His letters stopped. Soon the family got the news they all feared. Lt. Victor Earl Garrett died in the assault on Exermont. The U. S. Army buried him, along with 23,000 other American soldiers, at Romaigne Cemetery in Northern France.

After the war The University of Texas honored Lt. Earl Garrett by reading his name in the Varsity Roll of the Dead along with Lt. Louis Jordan of Fredericksburg and 86 other UT student/soldiers who died for their country in the Great War.

In 1924 President Calvin Coolidge unveiled a monument honoring the 1st Infantry Division. The monument, located in President's Park just west of the White House in Washington, D. C., consists of a 15 ft. tall gilded bronze figure of Victory perched atop a pink granite column. At the base of the monument are names of 5,516 men of the 1st Infantry Division who died in WWI.

The army invited Lt. Garrett's parents to the dedication ceremony, but the distance was too far and the expense too great.

The small town of Kerrville, Texas lost 3 young men in WWI. To honor them the town changed the name of Tchoupitoulas Street to Sidney Baker Street, Lytle Street to Francisco Lemos Street and Mountain Street to Earl Garrett Street.

Then in 1930 Mrs. Garrett and a group of Gold Star mothers and wives went to Europe on a government-sponsored trip to see their sons and husbands who never came home from the war. That summer Mrs. Garrett sat awhile with her son on a quiet hillside in France.


Michael Barr
"Hindsights" August 15, 2021 Column

Sources:
"Victor Earl Garrett," The Daily Texan, November 19, 1919.
"Kerrville War Hero's Death Memorialized," Kerrville Mountain Sun, October 2, 1924.
"The Tivy High School Record," Kerrville Mountain Sun, January 14, 1926.




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