Walter Sherman Patrick
Private First Class, United States Army
11 November 2002:
On August 3, 1918, exactly four years after Germany declared war on France in World War I, Private Walter Sherman Patrick wrote a letter home to his grandmother.
Patrick, 22, had been drafted into the Army only a few months earlier and was stationed in Fort Lee, Virginia, awaiting deployment to Europe, his daughter, Winchester resident Rebecca Jenkins, said.
On the front lines that day, the German army was losing the Second Battle of the Marne and, with it, the war. But Sherman could not have known that, and he told his grandmother he was already homesick and “you don’t write often enough to me.”
Jenkins said Patrick was very fond of his grandmother, who raised him after his mother died when he was 3.
“He stayed very close to home all his life,” she said.
In his letter home, written on stationery from the Knights of Columbus and mailed in a YMCA envelope for only 3 cents postage, Patrick expressed his loneliness and the uncertain future he faced.
“I haven’t had time to write and don’t know anything much to write about,” his letter states. He adds that he is expecting his assignment to change any day.
Patrick was probably relieved when he learned that he would be sent to France. Five days after he mailed this letter, American forces pushed the German front lines five miles back. The war ended three months later.
Shortly after he left the Army, Patrick met Minnie Maude Altizer. They were married in 1921.
They moved to Middletown and had six children, Jenkins being the third. Minnie died in 1935, leaving Patrick to raise the family on his own.
Patrick was a very patient father, Jenkins said. “He used to tell us little jokes.”
But he never talked about the war.
When the Great Depression struck, Patrick, who was a weaver in a woolen mill as well as a coal miner, was too busy working to attend veterans’ reunions or meetings.
While he supported the Allied effort in World War II, Jenkins said, Patrick was not happy to see his two sons ship out for Europe and the Pacific.
Both of his boys survived the war, and a family military tradition was born. Jenkins has two sons who served in Vietnam and a grandson currently enlisted in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division.
Patrick was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery in 1958, Jenkins said, joining other veterans who risked their lives to serve their country but all the while wished they were home.
Posted: 23 May 2004