The Archivist: Remembering a soldier on Veterans Day

Mary Phillips searches The Oklahoman archives to find stories of interest from Oklahoma's past. For Veteran's Day, she writes about a young Oklahoman who lost his life serving his country in WWI.
By Mary Phillips Staff Writer mphillips@opubco.com Published: November 11, 2013

Today, Nov. 11, is Veterans Day.

It was first known as Armistice Day and was the day set aside to recognize the soldiers who lost their lives in World War I.

After World War II, the name was changed in the United States to Veterans Day and it became the day to recognize all veterans, living and dead, who had served their nation in peace and war.

This is the story of one young man who sacrificed his life in France serving his country.

It was published in The Oklahoman June 23, 1918, with the headline “First Lad to Go Was First to Fall.”

“John C. Propper, 19-years-old, is dead and his body is buried back of a battlefield in France.

His name was mentioned in the casualty list last week.

In April, 1917, seven days after the first call for volunteers, John C. Propper, son of Mrs. Eunice Propper, a widow living in Gracemont, began the walk from Gracemont to Chickasha (26 miles), where he had heard volunteers might enlist. He carried with him his mother's oral contest that he might do as his father and his elder brother had done before him--defend the Stars and Stripes.

When young Propper, footsore and weary reached Chickasha, he learned that he could not join without written consent from his mother. He had no more money when he was in Chickasha, than when he left Gracemont, and the only thing to do was to walk back to Gracemont an get the written consent. Propper tramped back to Gracemont, obtained the necessary consent, and a second time, his mother bade him God-speed.

Citizens of Gracemont, hearing of the boy's endeavors to go fight for his country, provided funds with which a railroad ticket was purchased, and he traveled by train to Chickasha, where he was duly made a defender of the flag, and assigned to Company K, 23 infantry.