Reluctant Hero

My Grandfather was a reluctant hero. He was awarded the Congressional medal of honor in 1918 for his service with the 369th Infantry. According to a newspaper article there were 84,000 Kansans who participated in World War I. That figure rather astounds me considering Kansas's modest population. If it is true then my Grandfather, who was one of two Kansas Medal of Honor recipients for that war was indeed distinguished for bravery above and beyond the call of duty.

A year went by and he had not officially been awarded the medal. The army brass in Fort Riley, a stone's throw from Salina, wanted to do something to celebrate their local hero. Yet when my Grandfather was contacted about a medal award ceremony he said he was too busy and asked that they send him the medal in the mail.

Salina and the Army would have none of this. School was called off and a great ceremony was held for my Grandfather. Kids climbed up trees to get a good look at the proceedings.

My Grandfather was from a tee totaling Kansas family. He himself had never tasted any liquor until he was, at age 30, assigned to the French Army. As a French officer my Grandfather carried a canteen filled with port wine. When he was wounded by  machine gun shrapnel he felt a searing pain in his side. His wound was drenched with wine from his punctured canteen. It was probably a great disinfectant.

When the officers who awarded Grandfather his medal met privately before the presentation with Grandfather's parents, Thomas and Lottie Robb, one of them offered Thomas a drink of whiskey. Thomas, who was thrilled with his son's success told the officer that he had never touched a drop of liquor in his life but on this occasion he would. The officers then asked him if he would prefer his whiskey with water and Thomas said, no, he'd take it straight.

Apparently the officers all got a big kick out of this.

The photo was taken in the band shell at the Salina Park. My grandfather is seen standing between his parents during the presentation.