Members of the American Legion Charles A. Conklin Post 28 held a special ceremony to honor Conklin on Monday, which marked the 100th anniversary of his death in France in 1918. He was the first Grand Haven resident killed in World War I.
According to his obituary in a 1918 newspaper, Conklin was born in 1895 to Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Conklin of Grand Haven, and he graduated from high school in 1914. When the United States entered the Great War in 1917, Conklin was working in Cincinnati and enlisted in the Ohio National Guard.
John Bilski, the local American Legion post’s 1st vice commander, said it’s “extraordinary” how Conklin’s memory has been kept alive with the recognition he and others receive at local veterans posts. He said they’re honored to have the opportunity to remember Conklin and others who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country.
“We just hope that none of them are ever forgotten,” Bilski said.
During the ceremony, Bilski read a letter Conklin sent home after arriving in France. Conklin asked his family not to worry about him, and that he was pleased to be there, except that it meant being away from his family.
Janet Fonger, the local American Legion post’s 2nd vice commander, said the letter took them back to what Conklin was feeling at the time. She said people normally don’t realize what military personnel go through, and it’s one of the reasons they honor the fallen.
“Rest well, Charles Conklin,” Bilski said.