Showing posts with label Veterans Day. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Veterans Day. Show all posts

Monday, November 11, 2013

Portrait of a World War I Veteran

Zalmon Reuben Orlowsky was born about 1891, probably in Bachmach or Glukhov, Chernigov gubernia, Russian Empire (now Bakhmach and Hlukhiv, Chernihiv oblast, Ukraine).  When he immigrated to the United States, arriving in New York City on October 30, 1906, his father was likely already dead, as he listed his mother, Elke Orlowsky, as his closest relative in the "old country."  His occupation given on the ship manifest was merchant.  A family story says that he taught himself to read English by going back and forth between Russian and English versions of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace.

By 1910, Zalmon, now going by the last name of Orloff and sometimes the first name of Sam, was living in New Haven, Connecticut and working as a shop laborer.  On December 16, 1914, he was naturalized as an American citizen in New Haven.  He registered for the draft on June 5, 1917, still in New Haven.  Surprisingly, he does not seem to have been enumerated in the 1917 Connecticut military census, or at least I haven't been able to find him in the database on

The state of Connecticut, to show its pride in its citizens who had served during the "War to End All Wars", published a three-volume work in 1941 with details on those citizens' service.  According to his entry (in the second book), Zalmon was inducted into the National Army on October 3, 1917 at Local Board 2.  (The number 1,912,305 isn't explained in the book; I'm thinking it might be his service number?)  He was living at 31 Anne Street, New Haven.

Zalmon was assigned to the Headquarters Company of the 319th Field Artillery Regiment through to his discharge.  He was made a corporal on December 7, 1917; a sergeant on February 1, 1918; and also a supply sergeant on February 1, 1918.  He was with the American Expeditionary Forces from May 19, 1918 to March 25, 1919.  He was honorably discharged on April 4, 1919.

From letters Zalmon wrote to his sweetheart while he was in the Army, we know that he went through basic training at Camp Gordon, Georgia.  His tour with AEF took him to France, where he was near the front lines.  As with many soldiers, he was deeply affected by what he saw during the war.

Sometime between his discharge in 1919 and the 1920 census, Zalmon moved to Detroit, Michigan, where he worked as a mechanic.  By 1924 he was married and had a son, and by 1927 they had moved to the bustling city of Chicago, where some of Zalmon's cousins lived.  He had trouble getting good work, however, and was a paper hanger from 1924 to 1930.

Zalmon survived World War I, but he did not make it through the Great Depression.  He died March 1, 1930, in Chicago.  His death was unexpected; he is buried in a section of the cemetery where the plots were sold individually, on an "as needed" basis.  He is not far from a family member, though; his sister-in-law had died the previous year in a car accident, and he is buried only two plots away from her.

I am lucky to have a friend in the Chicago area.  She tries to visit Zalmon on Veterans Day every year to let him know he is not forgotten.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Honoring the Veterans in My Family

The earliest veteran I know of in my family is Moses Mulliner, my seventh great-grandfather, who served during the American Revolution as a drummer for a New Jersey unit.  I spoke about him recently to a local DAR chapter.  As far as I know he was a practicing Quaker, and that is probably why he chose to support the revolution as a drummer instead of fighting.  He was one of many veterans who found themselves in dire financial circumstances late in life, and he had to work his way through government bureaucracy for a pension that finally arrived the year before he died.

After Moses I move forward almost 100 years to the American Civil War.  My great-great-grandfather Cornelius Gottschalk Sellers volunteered to serve in another New Jersey unit.  Cornelius was underage, so his father Franklin had to sign a note granting him permission to volunteer.  His unit was at Fredericksburg and Gettysburg, and even at Appomattox for Lee's surrender, and he was in the hospital twice.  He did not survive long after the end of the war, passing away in 1877 at a young age.

On a collateral line are the only career military men I know of in my family.  Edwin Elias Sellers served in the U.S. Army.  He fought in the Civil War and was one of the Guard of Honor over the remains of President Lincoln while his body lay in state in Philadelphia from April 22-24, 1865, en route to Springfield, Illinois for burial.  I don't know if he was miffed when his son David Foote Sellers joined the Navy, but David had a long career there.  He participated in the Spanish-American and Philippine-American wars and World War I, and served as Commander in Chief of the United States Fleet and later as Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy.

Neither of my grandfathers was able to serve in the military.  My paternal grandfather had a leg amputated when he was 13 years old, and my maternal grandfather had flat feet.  But my maternal uncles were both in the armed forces, one in the Army and one in the Air Force.  And my stepfather was in the Air Force during the Vietnam War.

My stepson served in the U.S. Army for nine years, which included three tours in Iraq.  My daughter-in-law was also in the Army.

These are the veterans who are particularly dear to me, but everyone who serves has earned our thanks today.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Armistice Day

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.  That is when the armistice ending World War I was signed.  I grew up hearing about Armistice Day (now called Veterans Day in the U.S., to honor all veterans) from the time I was a small girl because my mother's birthday was November 11.  She knew her birthday was special, and she shared that with us.

I was in England in 1996 on Armistice Day (they still call it that).  Everything stopped at 11:00 a.m. -- drivers pulled over, radios didn't play anything, and people stopped moving and talking.  For two minutes the country remembered the sacrifices and deaths it endured during World War I.  It was a very moving experience.

A friend of mine in Chicago goes every year on Veterans Day and places a flower on the grave of Zalman, the grandfather of a friend of mine in the Bay Area.  Zalman served from 1917-1918 and was in France during the Armistice.  He wrote to a girlfriend during the war, and when he returned he asked her to type up all the letters he had written to her, so my Bay Area friend has a fascinating collection of letters he wrote from the war front.  As much as he was permitted to, he included where he was writing from, so we have a pretty good idea of his movements throughout his tour and what he experienced.

On Veterans Day this year I particularly want to honor my stepson and daughter-in-law, who both served in the U.S. Army, but I also am thinking of all members of armed forces, past and present.  They sacrifice a lot in the service of their country, and they deserve our thanks.