The American experience is made possible because of the individual citizen who selflessly responds in times of unease. World War I was such a time.
In 1917, a barber named Martin Treptow from small Cherokee, Iowa enlisted in the army. By December 1917, his regiment was sent to France to fight in the trenches of the western front. As a New Year’s resolution, Treptow wrote the following in his diary under the title “My Pledge.”
“America must win this war. Therefore I will work, I will save, I will sacrifice, I will endure, I will fight cheerfully and do my utmost, as if the issue of the whole struggle depended on me alone.”
In July of 1918, a message needed to be delivered during an intense battle against the Germans. Treptow took the message and delivered it to his platoon leader. Exposing himself to enemy fire, he was killed by a German machine gun. His diary was discovered with his personal belongings.
Treptow’s story as well as the pledge he wrote in his diary would likely be lost to history. However, President Ronald Reagan brought Treptow’s story to light during his first inaugural address in 1981. Below is a portion of that address:
Martin Treptow is not a name found in most history books. However, his story is a reminder that the true makeup of America is found in the every day acts of goodness and selflessness of anonymous Americans.