Our Boys Who Have Gone to War

Below is an excerpt from the December 1917 issue of The Waifs’ Messenger. It describes the young men of Mercy Home for Boys & Girls who served their country during World War I.

Transcript of Excerpt

THE MISSION OF OUR LADY OF MERCY AND THE WORKING BOYS’ HOME has been called upon to contribute its share of fighting men to the war. A glance at the “Roll of Honor” in the center of this page will show that our contribution is not a small one.

Our service flag holds thirty-one stars. The meaning of this flag, which floats above our building, is: “Thirty-one men have gone forth from this house to fight for their country.”

A further glance at the “Roll of Honor” discloses the cosmopolitan character of our ever-changing family – names showing many different nationalities. There is hardly a country on the globe that has not at one time or another been represented in the Home.

If we attempted to pay tribute – by using “fine” words – to these boys who have crossed, or are about to cross, the ocean to fight for Uncle Sam – if we attempted a flowery eulogy of their sacrifice and their bravery, we would fail, because we could not say what we would like to say – we could not translate into bare words the emotion that stirs within our heart.

Many of these boys were orphans. Many of them could but faintly remember their parents. When they left with their regiments they did not carry with them the familiar picture of parental leave-taking which is carried away by the soldier who is given god-speed by his parents. To bid the orphan good-bye there was no anxious mother with tear-stained face, no proud father with husky voice. But perhaps the orphan did not mind this so much. All his life he had been what might be called a “lone-hander” – he had come to accept the fact that nobody loved him as part of his life.

In many cases Father Quille was the only father he had ever known. And knowing this, the Home Father went out of this way to make him feel that he was not a really-truly orphan at all, but rather a son who was actually leaving behind that place we hear mentioned in the old song – “Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like…” Yes, the orphan was made to feel that this was the place where his memory must turn when the orphan thought of home.

Some of these boys whose names appear on this page came to the home when they were “little fellers.” To use a common expression, when they first arrived, “they were no bigger than a minute.” Now they are husky lads – chested and muscled, man-voiced. There is no use in trying not to feel proud of them. If we tried we would fail, and we are not trying. Fundamentally we do not believe in war – neither do we believe in fire when our house is burning. But if our house is on fire we are not going to stand around and say we do not believe in it. No. Not SAY it. We are going to SHOW it – by fighting the fire.

The Home Physician, Doctor Quille, now a lieutenant, and the Shop Superintendent, George J. Schnider – their names will be found on this page. Both volunteered. We can yet feel their handshakes of parting. They were so much a part of the life of the Home that, since they left us, it does not seem like the same old place. Even yet the walls of our memory echo their voices.

We look up, unconsciously expecting them to step into the room, and then a shock comes as when waking from a dream, when we realize that they are not here but “over there.”

In time all our boys will be across the sea. In time they will take their places in the mighty picture. And when the world is finally made safe for democracy, history will not forget them – their names will be written there.

A motherly-looking old lady was walking along Jackson Boulevard, when her eye caught sight of a strange flag floating in the breeze above her head, from a window in the Mission of Our Lady of Mercy.

“What flag is that?” she asked a Home boy, who was standing nearby.

“Service flag, madam”

“What are those stars for – the stars in the center of the flag?”

“Thirty-one stars – one for each soldier. We have thirty-one boys fighting for Uncle Sam.”

My! She was surprised. A sudden emotion was mirrored in her face. She raised her hand to her head.

“That’s a flag I want to salute,” she said. “Just think! Thirty-one from one home!”

Letters from Our Soldier Boys

The following excerpt from the March 1918 edition of The Waifs’ Messenger features letters written home from our young men serving overseas.

Life in the Barracks in Hawaii

The following photos were courtesy of U.S. Army Chaplain, Ignatius Fealy, a fellow Chicagoan and friend of Fr. Quille. Rev. Fealy shared letters with Mercy Home youth about life in the barracks while stationed in Hawaii.


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