Each year on Armistice Day, I am especially reminded of my father, Benne LaPlante, and his service to our country during World War I. (The name Armistice Day was changed to Veterans Day in 1954, so as to honor all veterans who fought in US wars.)
When the United States entered World War I in April of 1917, my father was living and working in Franklin. He turned 28 that month, which meant he wouldn’t be among the first to be drafted into the service. Even though he did not “have” to serve his country at this time, he “wanted” to serve, and thus do his patriotic duty.
Still single, and more or less “footloose and fancy free,” as the old saying goes, Benne decided to enlist. When he went before the Enlistment Board though, his enlistment was denied because he had false teeth.
Much annoyed, my father responded, “I am going overseas to fight the enemy, not to bite them!” Still wanting to serve, Benne told the board he was willing to fill in, if someone failed to show up at their appointed time.
Sure enough, over a year later, in August of 1918, my father received a call, with orders to report for duty, as a replacement was needed for just such a person who had not appeared when notified. After all, enlistment quotas had to be met, and the number of eligible men was declining, so apparently false teeth were no longer an issue.
Benne joined the US Army and was sent to Syracuse, New York for his basic training. From there his unit was sent to Norfolk, Virginia for further training, and then on to Newport News, Virginia to await departure for the war in Europe.
Finally, the day arrived and the men began boarding the ship, as preparations were made for the journey across the ocean. My father and his unit were on the ship for only half an hour when word was received that the Armistice Treaty had been signed at the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month. The war was now over, and the men marched back off the ship!
Corporal J. Benjamin LaPlante was discharged from the US Army on December 8, 1918, after only four months of service, but he had been ready, willing, and able to serve from the very beginning. He was disappointed at not having the opportunity to fight the enemy, but our family has always been very thankful the Armistice Treaty was signed when it was!
My father, Benne LaPlante, and my mother, Dorothy Hersey, were married in 1927, and spent
most of their 58 years together living in Andover.