Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Alphonse Brule - Music in France

Alphonse Brule was the third of the four McCormick Tribune Medal holders from Lowell to die. He was born December 16, 1897 and he died March 5, 1996. He was 98 years old.
Here is a letter that he sent to his mother during the war that was published in the Lowell Sun, November 8, 1918:
"Dear Mother,

Just a few lines to let you know that I am well and hope you are the same. I had a chance to have my   picture taken while in a rest camp and so am sending one to each of you. I just went through one of the biggest American drives ever made by an American division in France. We have taken German positions that have been occupied by the Huns since the beginning of the war and we are now sleeping in dugouts and billets that were made by the Germans and we are having things very comfortable.
As we advanced during the drive we went through towns that were set apart by the boche as they tried to burn everything they had to leave behind. We also captured quite a few prisoners. I am now at brigade headquarters and consider it a very good rest camp compared to what I had. I will stay here as long as I can for I like it very much. My duties consist of carrying the message from one headquarters to another and for the time being I will not have to go "over the top." I have a horse and as I do most of my work during the night. I have some difficulties finding my way as I have to go through forests and can hardly see two feet in front of me half the time. I have as bunk mates a few military policemen who are from my old regiment and also from Lowell. As they are good fellows we have a very good time.
A short time ago, we captured a piano from the Germans and as one of my mates is an accomplished musician we have a concert most every night. Piano selections in the trenches are a very pleasing novelty and the music serves as an accompaniment to the sizzling of the bullets aimed at the Huns. Moving picture shows or anything like that are out of the question in this part of the world. Then again our duties keep us away from social gatherings.
I received a letter from Henry Berard recently but have not found time to answer it. He says  he is in good health and thinks we will all be home very shortly. Tell all my friends that as soon as I get back to a rest camp I will write to them all. I hope that everything is going along fine at home and that you are in the best of health. Let me know all about the folks in Lowell. Hoping to hear from you in the near future. I remain,
Your affectionate son, ALPHONSE"

Private Brule was a member of the 102nd Infantry, 26th Division Company K. The famed Yankee Division. He married Alice E. Charron and had two daughters Lorraine and Doris. He was an active member of the Notre Dame de Lourdes Church and served as Captain of the Garde Sacre Coeur for 33 years. He was the last active World War One veteran on the Lowell Veteran's Council.

Thank you for your service to our country and the community.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Demetrios "Jimmy" Banacos

Demetrios Banacos was the second of the last four remaining World War One Veterans of Lowell to pass away after receiving the Robert McCormick Tribune Medal in 1993.

Demetrios "Jimmy" Banacos was born December 6, 1893, the oldest son of Harry and Stamatico Banacos. He emigrated from Greece with his parents. His parents then had eleven more children all born in Lowell. They leased farmland on Varnum Avenue.

He graduated from Lowell High School Class of 1912. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in July of 1917. He left behind his brothers and sisters to take care of the farm and to fight for his new country.

Jimmy Banacos was injured by mustard gas during the war. However the injury was much deeper than burning of his lungs. He suffered from shell shock, now commonly referred to as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He returned from war another man. He could no longer could speak.

Back then the effects of war were poorly understood. Treatments and therapies that we have today were undiscovered. Could they have helped Jimmy? Who knows?

According to a November 11th, 1993 Lowell Sun article, the family tried to get him help. Even sending him back to Greece to try some treatment. Jimmy came back to the United States, after some trouble proving he was a U.S. citizen. His family received help from Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers to prove he was an American citizen.

He would live the rest of his life in Veteran's Administration hospitals. Originally he was in Boston and when the Bedford VA Hospital opened in October of 1928 he was sent there. Ironically, the Bedford VA Hospital was named the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Hospital in 1970.

He lived in silence for 77 years. His mother visited him every Sunday for 45 years until her death in 1969. He never spoke a word to her. He died at the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Hospital on September 18, 1995 at the age of 101.

He is buried in the Westlawn Cemetery in Lowell with his mom and dad. God bless you Jimmy Banacos and the extreme sacrifice that you made for your new country. Thank you is not enough.