FORTY FORT — Some local residents with an appreciation for history paused Saturday to mark the death of World War I nurse Lillian Langdon, who died 100 years to the day at a base camp in Maryland.
Forty Fort Mayor Andy Tuzinski said Langdon, who would have served in the Army, had been granted general military status but had not been commissioned.
In 1918, Army nurses were valiantly helping fight a worldwide flu epidemic, which ultimately claimed Langdon’s life.
Saturday’s ceremony, hosted by the Shawnee Fort Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution at the Forty Fort Cemetery, was a move toward bringing recognition to Langdon, of Plymouth, and other nurses who worked from battlefields to bedsides as part of the U.S. fighting force.
“The proud tradition of nursing in the military dates back to the founding of our military when Gen. George Washington requested the assistance of nurses to tend to wounded and sick soldiers,” said Tuzinski. “Congress approved, granting one nurse for every 10 patients in Continental Army hospitals.”
According to Tuzinski, when the country entered World War I in 1917, more than 400 nurses were on active duty. By war’s end, about 21,000 belonged to the Army Nurse Corps.
Kathleen Smith, of DAR’s Shawnee Fort Chapter in Plymouth, said although Langdon had served as an Army nurse for only a month, her willingness to risk her life to benefit the soldiers who were also risking theirs was immeasurable.
Smith, who spoke near Langdon’s grave, said the family had been grateful to bring their daughter back to the area to be buried.
“Those who lost their lives overseas often never made it back,” she pointed out.
Attendees were quiet as Kathleen Donovan Langdon, accompanied by her husband, Vincent, descendants of the fallen nurse, placed white flowers on the grave.
The American Legion Post 655 Honor Guard was on hand to present arms in a military tribute to the nurse who attendees described as “brave and courageous.”
Lou Price, Legion member, said participating in the ceremony was consistent with the Legion’s commitment to honoring and assisting those in the military and their families.
“The call came asking us to be here and of course we came,” he said. “These guys are more than happy to be here. We’re all military veterans.”
Tuzinski concluded his remarks with a reflection on the impact of today’s military heath professionals.
“Their dedication to providing the highest-quality care possible to 9.4 million beneficiaries means our troops are safer, their families are healthier and our nation is more secure,” he said.
“Lillian Langdon would be proud of their efforts.”
And although much is known about Lillian Langdon, some mystery remains.
“Although she was from Plymouth, she was buried in Forty Fort along with her parents Brotus and Susan Langdon,” said Smith. “Maybe they had family members here. We haven’t figured it out.”