Remembering his sacrifice

MARSHALL – It can be a humbling experience to visit the cemetery around Memorial Day, Art Finnell said. American flags marking graves were visible in just about any direction one looked at the Marshall Cemetery.

“All those people served in the military,” Finnell said.

It makes an impression.

As of this weekend, one more flag will be added to the scene. Members of the Finnell and Marshall families gathered to see a new flag marker placed at the grave of Earl Jackson, their relative and the second Marshall soldier to be killed during World War I. The gathering Sunday brought together several of Jackson’s family members from around Minnesota.

To the family’s knowledge, Jackson’s grave never had a military flag marker before.

“We don’t know why,” Finnell said. After a couple of years of trying to get one installed, Finnell said, he bought a flag holder himself.

“We think he deserves to have one,” Finnell said. The sacrifices made by American servicepeople shouldn’t be forgotten, family members agreed.

Behind the waving flag planted at the gravesite, Jackson’s headstone was carved with the date he was killed in action: Oct. 7, 1918. Family members had also placed a wreath of red, white and blue flowers reading “Hero” by the grave and a gold-star flag by the headstone of Jackson’s mother, Mary Marshall. Jackson didn’t have a wife or children, so the family members visiting his grave were related through his siblings, his mother’s family, the Finnells and his stepfather’s family, the Marshalls.

Sunday wasn’t the first time a group had assembled to remember Jackson. In 1921, a memorial service for Jackson and Luther Irl Snapp drew a large crowd on the Lyon County courthouse lawn. Snapp and Jackson were the first and second Marshall soldiers, respectively, to be killed in action in World War I.

They were originally buried with other American soldiers in France, but their remains were later brought back to Marshall to be reinterred.

Jackson had enlisted in the Army, instead of being drafted, Finnell said.

“That was a big thing, too,”?he said.

The Lyon County News Messenger reported on the memorial observances in its Aug. 12, 1921, edition. A front-page story described the service as “The most impressive demonstration of honor and respect.” A collage of photographs showed people gathered around the war memorial that stands in front of the courthouse. The News Messenger said Snapp and Jackson’s caskets were driven to the cemetery by three teams of gray horses and accompanied by a procession of 150 American Legion members. The Marshall Legion post was named after Snapp.

On Sunday, members of Jackson’s family reflected on the sacrifices made by Jackson and the other people represented by the flags scattered around the cemetery.

“Think of how young they were,” said Elizabeth (Marshall) Swan.

Jackson himself was only 23 years old when he died.

Priscilla (Marshall) Comnick said it seemed like World War I doesn’t get as much popular attention as more recent wars – you see more movies about World War II than World War I, for example.

But, Art Finnell said, it was just as deserving of remembrance.

“That was the point of this whole thing, so he’d get recognized,” Finnell said of the new flag marker on Jackson’s grave.