Immigrants and the military


My grandfather, John Jacob Hannon, was an Irish immigrant that went to war for the U.S. in World War I. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website, “foreign born soldiers composed over 18 percent of the U.S. Army during World War I.” In fact, the 77th Infantry Division was nicknamed the “melting pot division” and even sported the Statue of Liberty in its insignia.

Many immigrant service members could not speak English, so the War Department offered English-language classes in wartime training camps.

My grandfather married a Canadian citizen, thereby bringing her to citizenship in the U.S. Together my grandmother and grandfather had nine children, but two passed young. The other seven all had good lives and jobs. The church remained important in all their lives. All but one had children that also went on to good lives and jobs.

My dad joined the army at 17 and went to war in 1945 — just before the war ended up being over. He met and married my mother, Katrina Maurer, from Garmisch-Partenkirchen. She grew up in Hitler’s Germany and because he wanted to make English the common world language she learned to speak it fluently in school. She often talked about growing up. She sent packages to family in East Germany, a Soviet satellite country. For some reason I can still see her putting coffee and crayons in the boxes.

I just read from CBS News that a Pakistani soldier was discharged without explanation on June 11 because the military was changing its longtime practice of service as a means toward becoming a citizen of the U.S. She had been in the military for four years.

I am a child of immigrants and my name is Mark Hannon. I call Rapid River home.

Mark A. Hannon

Rapid River