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July 02, 2024 3 min read

I usually don't post my photograph on line, but I want to share this very special one of me next to a WWI uniform I had donated to the WWI Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, MO in early 2017.  Here is the background story:

The uniform along with other WWI memorabilia was packed inside a soldier's trunk  abandoned by my tenant who skipped out over night without paying his rent. Other articles in the trunk was a photograph of the American soldier who was originally from East Orange, CT and flew for the Royal Canadian Air Force. There was also a brief medical history stating that he had an honorable discharge because he suffered from a mental breakdown while flying a plane in Europe. I was horrified that the tenant had forgotten what I thought was a family heirloom, so I wrote an email about his forgotten trunk and to pick it up.  I finished the email by letting him know I would use his security deposit to cover the rent. I waited a week, and did not receive any response so I decided to do some research about WWI and the uniform.  The uniform was made of high quality heavy wool and had almost no flaws and was adorned with beautiful gold engraved metal buttons that decorated the epaulettes, pockets, sleeve cuffs, and still held four buttons intact down the front.  There was also a beautiful pin of a pair of wings still attached to the upper breast of the uniform and the inside label identified the clothier located on Rue Madelaine in Paris.  

Throughout my research, I was curious to learn how an American soldier would choose to enlist in the Canadian Royal Air Force and learned that before the USA got involved with WWI in April of 1917, our citizens could volunteer to fight for our allies. 

I put the word out on Facebook telling the story about the uniform and asked for advice on what to do with it and other articles within that worn trunk.  A Canadian friends said "it should be returned to Canada", and a few others informed me about the museum in Kansas City, which is where I decided it should be and contacted the curator there submitting photos of the uniform and other items from the trunk.  It did not take long for the curator to write back accepting the uniform because they did not have one like it in their vast collection of uniforms.  So, on one day in February 2017, I packed the uniform with the photograph and history of the soldier, took a video of it before I taped up the box knowing that it would be in the best care possible and on display for visitors to see. 

Historically, the Fourth of July is celebrating our freedom from the British Monarchy and in WWI, we fought alongside them and other allied forces against the Ottoman Empire, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria.  History is interesting isn't it? But freedom is not free:  It costs money, lives, hopes and dreams for many people and I hope that this coming 4th of July we don't forget the cost of freedom and that we all take a few moments to be silent and reflect on why and how we became free. 

Note:  I do not use AI for my writing, nor do I have a proof reader.  I write solely from the top of my head doing just a few edits before publishing.  I hope you enjoyed this little, but important story.  - Ruth Sutcliffe

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