Carden honors memory of father who served as ‘doughboy’ in WWI
Editor’s Note: Veterans Day will be observed on Nov. 11 as it has been since 1954. Prior to 1954, Veterans Day was known as Armistice Day and celebrated on Nov. 11 to commemorate the end of World War I.
By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
TULLAHOMA — William Henry “Bill” Carden Jr. will be among thousands upon thousands of Americans who will observe Veterans Day on Nov. 11.
But for Carden, a member of First Baptist Church, Tullahoma, the day holds even more significance. Nov. 11 also is the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I which was later dubbed “the war to end all wars.”
Carden’s father, William Henry Carden Sr., was a “doughboy,” a member of the 311 Machine Gun Battalion, Company B, when word was received that an armistice agreement had been signed on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.
A doughboy was an informal term used for members of the Army or Marines during World War I.
The elder Carden’s son still has many mementos of his dad’s service in World War I, including his diary, military records and dog tag, and a New Testament he was given on his voyage from New York City to Liverpool, England, in 1918.
These are prized possessions for Carden, but he is quick to point out that his dad was not a “war hero” in the purest sense though his unit did see battle on the front lines in the Meusse-Argonne area of France just hours before the armistice agreement was signed that ended the war.
Nov. 9: “Hiked two or three miles near the front, was there one night, then went for the front.”
Nov. 11: “We was to put over a barrage, but on way got lost and went in no-man’s land, backed out, went to our position, was too late for the barrage. The Germans started shooting artillery at us. We stayed in trenches. It was foggy. At 10 o’clock the lieutenant came and said hostility would end at 11 o’clock. At 11 o’clock all guns stopped firing.”
Carden noted that his dad continued to write in his diary in the days following the armistice as they remained where they were when the war ended for two weeks “to guard against any unusual activity by the enemy.”
Carden’s father was honorably discharged in 1919. He eventually moved to Memphis where he married Carden’s mother in 1929. They became members of Bellevue Baptist Church where he served as a deacon from the mid-1940s until his death in 1960, most of it under the ministry of legendary pastor R.G. Lee.
Carden said his dad kept all his mementos and he allowed his son to see and handle the items that he kept in a dresser drawer. The items “are so meaningful to me,” Carden said. “Dad and his fellow soldiers were fighting for our nation’s freedom.”
Perhaps the item that he treasures most is the New Testament his dad received. On the inside of the front cover are three written sentences addressed “To the American Soldier” and bearing the signature of General (John) Pershing” Carden said.
The message noted, “Aroused against a nation waging war in violation of all Christian principles, our people are fighting for the cause of liberty. Hardship will be your lot, but trust in God will give you comfort; temptation will befall you, but the teachings of our Savior will give you strength. …”
Carden added that on the inside back cover under the heading, “My Decision,” his dad placed his signature, “along with the date, Aug. 23, 1918, acknowledging that he had indeed accept Christ as his Savior.”
Carden has fond memories of his father. “My dad wasn’t a war hero but he was a loving father and a great Christian.”
As Veterans Day approaches, Carden knows his father had a small role in helping to secure freedoms that Americans take for granted today. “There are people who understand the significance of Veterans Day,” he said, “but there are those who don’t.
“It’s an opportunity for everyone to honor those who have fought to defend our nation and to keep us free from dictators.”