Sunday, Nov. 11, is Veterans Day and Challis American Legion Philip Kirk Post No. 109 members will commemorate the 100th anniversary of Philip Kirk’s death.
A ceremony is set for 11 a.m. at the Veterans of Custer County Memorial at the Land of the Yankee Fork State Park and a dinner at 5 p.m. at the Legion Hall.
The following day, Monday, Nov. 12, students of Challis elementary, junior and senior high schools honor local veterans at an assembly scheduled to start at 1:30 p.m. in the high school gymnasium.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day which ended World War I on Nov. 11, 1918. The American Legion was chartered by Congress in 1919. Philip Kirk Post was chartered June 17, 1937, according to Challis American Legion Commander Tom Pettit. The American Legion held its 100th national convention Aug. 24-30 in Minneapolis.
The Aug. 21, 1918 issue of The Challis Messenger had the following about Kirk’s death:
“A dispatch from Washington Wednesday to the Kirk family at the Challis Springs brought the sad news of the reported death of Private Philip Kirk, who was killed in action somewhere in France on July 31st. He registered on June 5, 1917, and was sent to Camp Lewis on November 7th, where he remained in training for about seven months.
“The family and friends of Philip are hopeful of receiving word that he is still among the living -- that the report will prove to be an error. Should no further advices be received within the next few days, the Council of Defense will arrange for a public memorial service to which the entire county is invited.”
The September 4, 1918 issue of The Messenger reported on Kirk’s memorial service:
“Last Sunday the flags waving to our gentle Central Idaho breeze were all fluttering at half mast in honor of our County’s first heroic dead, Private Philip Kirk, who was killed in action somewhere in France on July 31st.
“At three o’clock that afternoon, patriots from every corner of Central Idaho gathered at the Dodge Hall to participate in a Memorial Service for our dead son. Several speakers addressed the large audience, principal among whom was the Honorable Chase A. Clark. On the platform with Mr. Clark were veterans of the Civil and Spanish American wars and First Lieutenant Samuel T. Patterson in the service of his country in the present great conflict.”
Kirk’s family published a card of thanks in the same issue of the Messenger:
“The many acts of kindness have served to make our great loss easier to bear.”
It wasn’t until the Feb. 12, 1919, issue that the cause of Kirk’s death was made public. The following letter to his mother was published in The Messenger:
“Your letter to the Adjutant General has been referred to me. It is regrettable that you have had to wait so long for details of your son’s death and even now I can only repeat to you what my present 1st Sergeant tells me.
“I joined this company, unfortunately, only after the armistice was signed, so I did not personally know your son. The company commander at the time of your son’s death lost his life on the same day your son did. The fact that the officer who succeeded him was likewise killed may explain why you have never had any letters giving you intimate news of your son’s last moments.
“He was instantly killed by a machine gun battle as he advanced in that memorable attack in the Aurey river. That attack was part of the Battle of Chateu Thierry which will immediately go down in history as one of the greatest battles in history. It was there that the last German offensive which so nearly gained its end was stemmed by American troops. It marked the turning point, and after it passed Germany was whipped.
“Sgt. Murehland, of this company, saw your son fall face to the enemy, dead before he knew that he had been struck. The bullet pierced his brain so the sergeant tells me. I only tell you these things as it must comfort you to know that his death was absolutely painless. I hope too, Mrs. Kirk, that it will be some consolation for you to know that your son did not die uselessly but that he contributed in a marked way to winning the greatest battle in history. He was known in the company as an excellent soldier and a brave man.
“May your just pride in him help you to bear the great sorrow which his death has caused you.