Struggling with her own grief, Connecticut journalist Jane Dee found a sense of healing and connection as she wrote about a young solider from New Haven, who served valiantly in World War I and paid a dear price. Check out Jane’s piece here:
Please contact Jane, if you have–or know about–a veteran’s story to share. And say thanks to any veteran you come across this week, or whenever the spirit moves you. These folks give so much and ask so little in return.
Please welcome Jane Dee to Write Despite.
My father was a veteran and an Irish lad, as was Timothy Ahearn, the subject of A Soldier’s Story in New Haven Living’s November magazine. A slightly shorter version of the story appeared in the Hartford Courant and on courant.com on Veterans Day.
My father and Timothy also shared the middle name Francis. I found these similarities to be meaningful when I stumbled upon a picture of Timothy’s memorial shortly after my father died this past March. Timothy’s life-like statue stopped me in my tracks and his story soon became a mystery for me to solve, as I tried to piece together how he had died. Immersing myself in his story felt like writing about my father by proxy, and was a way for me to honor my father’s war service. It also put my mind elsewhere, which helped me to cope with my grief, as I had lost my mother to breast cancer 22 months before my father died.
Writing this story took a lot of detective work, as Timothy’s story had never been written before. His descendants had moved away from the area, and the veterans he fought with had died years ago. Although his story was profoundly meaningful to the veterans who raised the memorial to him, his story had been lost to time.
Timothy has been gone a long time, but his story is a story about veterans, for whom I have a much deeper appreciation. In many ways we are becoming a nation of veterans, and Timothy’s story speaks to the struggles veterans still encounter today.
I spent six months researching A Soldier’s Story at the New Haven Public Library, including its local history room, the Connecticut State Library, and the New Haven Museum. I also spoke to veterans and visited the West Haven Veterans Museum & Learning Center, which has a wonderful collection of Yankee Division memorabilia. I obtained copies of Ahearn’s service record from the Connecticut National Guard and corresponded with two members of his family who were very generous with their time and memories. I also read many books on the “Great War.” Two histories written just after the war ended were particularly helpful.
I would be very happy to hear from any of Ahearn’s descendants. I am also very interested in telling other veteran’s stories. I would welcome your suggestions and comments and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.