Veteran: Leo Foster
Artist / Writer: Ron Travisano
My grandfather, Leo Foster, was a musician in a trio with his two older sisters, Mary and Cunigunda (Cuni for short). They played evenings at various establishments in the city of La Crosse, Wisconsin helping the people in this Mississippi River town to drown away their worries and sorrows and provide soothing musical entertainment during this anxious period before the 1st World War had begun.
Little did he know that his musical talents would play a major factor in the ensuing war.
Knowing full well what was on the horizon for men of his age, Leo enlisted in the Wisconsin National Guard in June 1917.
On July 3, President Wilson issued a proclamation calling into the Federal Services the National Guard troops of Wisconsin and Michigan.
On August 5th he was “drafted” to report for duty as an active Army soldier.
It must have been a difficult transition for his mother, Barbara. She had been widowed by the death of her husband John in 1895. She had lost an infant son to sickness in 1894. Now her only remaining son was heading off to “The Great War”.
On January 20, 1919, Bugler Leo Foster of Company C, 121st Machine Gun Battalion, 32nd Division, was awarded the Wound Chevron, for wounds obtained in action on August 1, 1918.
My grandfather exchanged his chevron for a Purple Heart.
Bothered by his wounds throughout his life, he would never complain, but often relented that the weather was going to be changing, because he felt it where the shrapnel had pierced his body.
Every year he would get together with the last remaining members of his unit in Lacrosse. They all agreed that when the numbers dwindled to less than five alive, they would open up a bottle of Cognac they had procured in France during the war.
Unfortunately, he never got the opportunity to toast his fellow soldiers.