Sacrificed youth for the call of war
George Stevens joined the Army in 1917. He became a member of the American Expeditionary Forces on October 18, 1917, a part of the Rainbow division, which found them all serving in France. In a telegram to George's father, the commander of the 42nd Division explained what had happened. "... on the occasion of the action near Seringer-et-Nesle, northeast of Chateau-Thierry, on the night of July 29, 1918, when his company had been halted during the advance by murderous fire from the enemy, he did fearlessly attack a machine gun nest and in exposing himself, he met his death ...
“... your son's performance of duty on this occasion [is] worthy of the highest commendation ... his actions in the face of the enemy [were] gallant, an example to his comrades in arms and characteristic of the splendid standard upon which the traditions of our military establishment are founded."
Stevens was born here in Euclid in 1899. In 1913 he went to Camp Wissalohican where he and his friends dug a boulder from the earth. He then proceeded to carve this message on the boulder: "George dug this in 1913." In 1998, that boulder was found just under the surface of the Grand River in LeRoy Township. Subsequent research found the inscription belonged to George Stevens of Noble, OH, now Euclid. A later inscription was made near the first one on the boulder. "George Stevens, killed in action 1918." Lake Metroparks has pulled the boulder from its watery site and in 2000 placed it in a prominent place with great reverence for a fallen soldier; it is now at Indian Point Park in the Metroparks system.
Stevens received his education through the Euclid public school system and at Shaw Academy, but at the age of 17 made the decision, with seven of his friends from Shaw, to enlist in the National Guard. Because he was under age he needed his parent’s permission to enlist, and they reluctantly gave it. He served in Company 3F Infantry as a private, beginning on April 28, 1917. He was promoted to corporal on September 5, 1917 and raised in rank to sergeant on March 15, 1918.
In reading, and re-reading about George, I am reminded of the exploits of World War I’s most decorated soldier, Alvin York. Both were heroes to their country; the only difference in their stories is that York lived to tell his story while Stevens did not.
Stevens’ love of his country can best be expressed in a poem he wrote one night while on duty.
As I walk my post at midnight,
Trying to do things right,
Thoughts of home and friends come to me
As wearily drags the night
Thoughts of Mother and Father,
And of all my kith and kin,
And then of friends whose friendship
I've been lucky enough to win.
And my throat it just seems to choke,
And my eyes, well, it's hard to see.
But when I feel the saddest,
And my spirit seems to lag,
All I need for consolation
Is one good look at our flag.
And then with redoubled strength
Because of the thoughts I've had,
Comes back the joy of my spirit,
And once again I am glad.
For when I think of our Country,
And our fathers of long ago,
Why, even our lives can little repay
The smallest debt we owe.