Flashback: US helps him; now he helps US

August 3, 2018

Editor’s note: This regular feature normally runs on Thursday and is known as “Throwback Thursday.″ The approach has been altered slightly this week. Today we will call it “Flashback Friday.″

The year was 1918. America was embroiled in World War I, women were pushing for the right to vote, and polio was causing deaths across the county. Our Throwback Thursday takes a look back at our most popular stories from this month in history, from the quirky to the heartbreaking.

Today’s story was published August 1, 1918, under the headline “U.S. Helps Him; Now He Helps U.S.” A little over a year after the U.S. first joined the war effort, Kankakee men were no longer leaving for training camp with last-minute celebrations and thunderous speeches at the train station. Now the mood was somber. Shortly after Thomas Barre’s departure, Kankakee received the first notice that one of her men had been killed overseas: Joseph Messina, an Italian immigrant and iron worker. Like Barre, Messina had also refused the exemption granted to “aliens.”

Kankakee County had the distinction today of sending into the training camp one of the few Filipinos that have entered the service of the United States in the great war. He is Thomas Barre, who was a student in St. Viator’s college and one of the contingent of 106 men who left here this morning for Camp Wheeler, Ga.

About five Filipinos were registered in Kankakee and all claimed exemption but Barre. The other four had asked for deferred classification on the grounds of being aliens. The local board, on account of the fact that the United States had taken over the Philippine Islands, disinclined to allow the blame, but one of the men took the matter up with Adjutant General Dickson. After investigating the question Dickson decided that the claim should stand and that the men should be given deferred classification.

Barre, however, filed no claim for exemption. He took the view that the United States had saved him from just such a slavery as the German high lords were trying to place over the world and that it was now his turn to help the United States.

He is a very highly educated man and one would hardly suspect he is a foreigner except for the color of his skin and hair. By leaving with the boys today, Barre places himself in the highest ranks of American citizenship.

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