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Letter From F G Kohler, Hector Mirror, 12-26-1919

Fred G. Kohler
January 17, 1889 – ????

Camp Custer, Mich., Dec. 15, 1918

Dear Folks:

Rather a lonesome morning. I am on duty until one o’clock but not much doing, as only of part of the sick and wounded……. It is very interesting to converse with these boys who have just arrived from the front. I have seen all kinds of cripples, from those with one finger lost to those with both legs and an arm gone. The most remarkable thing about these men is that not one among them has a single complaint to make and they cannot praise the Red Cross service enough. Poor boys, they are a pathetic sight, but they take great pride in the thought that they still live. They will be well looked after until physically fit, when they will receive artificial limbs, and Uncle Sam will take good care of them.

Had a big fire near here Friday evening; the Liberty Club and several other building went up in smoke. Our fire fighting machinery is just the same as in a large city only we don’t need the long ladders, as the tallest building are only two stories high. Our water supply comes from artesian wells located north of the Kalamazoo river, from a distance of five miles and the pipes are laid under the river. The water is just grand, and soft as rain water.

This afternoon, if rain does not prevent, I am going over to the heavy artillery range and get a few relics of sharpnell shells, etc. The camp here was once a farming community but I can’t understand what they could raise as it is all sand and quite a little timber, but not large trees, and very hilly.

Wednesday 11:30 a.m

I wish you could see the over seas men here this forenoon. There are now a couple of thousand in this area and eighteen hundred more coming in today. They will gill thirty six two story sleeping barracks. I saw more cripple in one bunch today (and I see a whole lot more inside of twenty-four hours) than I ever expect to see again, and more artificial limbs than there are people in Hector. A great many of these boys will have to have a re-amputation in order to get a good stump for artificial limbs. Those who are in fairly good shape will leave immediately, or as soon as they get a settlement from the government. A final settlement is made in all cases before discharge so there will be very few after pensions.

One poor fellow had his nose shot away, and a new one replacing it was made from parafine and a skin graft from the arm, and one must look very, very close to see any mark. All one can see is a very light line of demargation where the skin or the arm and the face grew together. That operation was done two weeks ago in New York and he can be discharged in a few days.

It is mess time now. Will write again soon.