By Kathi Kresol
Local historian, paranormal investigator and operator of Haunted Rockford Paranormal Events
Mr. and Mrs. Damon must have felt a great relief when the armistice was completed and World War I finally seemed to be over. They had two sons serving in the war, Sgt. Clinton Damon, who was a member of Company C 1st Battalion, and Cpl. Grant Damon, who was in Company K 129th Infantry Division. Clinton was in the replacement and training camp in Texas, and Grant was overseas in France fighting on the Western Front.
Grant, who was 26 in 1918, was expected home very soon, and Mrs. Damon stopped in to Veterans Memorial Hall on Dec. 5, 1918, to see if there was any news about his return. The Damons had not had any news from Grant for several weeks, but assumed he was busy making the arrangements.
Mrs. Damon probably didn’t comprehend the words that were on the slip of paper she was handed that day. Instead of greetings from her son, the letter contained the official notice that Grant was dead. He had died a month before on Nov. 5.
Grant had suffered horribly from the wounds he received in October during a gas attack. Mustard gas caused blistering — both externally and internally — and often blinded the men who came in contact with it. It was very effective initially, and it was even more deadly than other gases used earlier in the war. And mustard gas was absorbed into the soil, making it potent for weeks after the initial attack. This made the capturing of trenches even more dangerous.
The effects of the gases were horrible, but not usually fatal, at least not right away. Those victims who received fatal doses lingered for weeks, suffering from the blistering that would eventually strip away the mucus linings of their lungs. It was a brutally painful way to die.
One does not even want to imagine Mrs. Damon’s suffering when she received the devastating news that Grant would not be coming home. There is still something of that emotion in Veterans Memorial Hall of when Mrs. Damon received the news of her son’s death. Different psychics have sensed her there, still caught in that moment.
Grant’s body was shipped home to his family, and he was buried with honors in Cedar Bluff Cemetery. Psychics Paul Smith and Sara Bowker visited there for a tour with Haunted Rockford. They both sensed Grant there, and were able to add more to his story. Grant had been injured, but went back to aid a friend who had been wounded when he became overwhelmed with the gas. Paul Smith had sensed Grant’s mother at Memorial Hall, but had not been able to identify her. It was only while communicating with Grant that Smith was able to finally put a name to the woman.
The Grant family received a letter from the American Red Cross shortly after they were told of his death. It was printed in the Dec. 31, 1918, Rockford Register Gazette, and read: “Hard as it is to receive such news, we want you always to remember that this life was given in a wonderful cause, for if it had not been for such men as Corporal Damon, the victory which has come could never been won. The American Red Cross send you the deepest sympathy.”
Rockford’s cemeteries are filled with young men and women who made the supreme sacrifice for their country. They continue to be honored at Veterans Memorial Hall and through articles such as these. One hopes this knowledge brings comfort to the families of those lost.
Veterans Memorial Hall is at 211 N. Main St., downtown Rockford, and can be reached at (815) 969-1999.
Kathi Kresol is a local historian, paranormal investigator and operator of Haunted Rockford Paranormal Events. Through Haunted Rockford, Kathi gives paranormal and haunted history tours and sponsors other paranormal events in and around Rockford throughout the year. For more of Kathi’s history articles, and for information about upcoming paranormal events, visit www.hauntedrockford.com.
From the Nov. 5-11, 2014, issue