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Willis Neal (1894 - 1918)


Posted By: Barry Mateer (email)
Date: 11/12/2017 at 12:52:18

Sergeant Willis Neal

November 13th the United States Government placed a telegram announcing the death of Sergeant Willis Neal, into the hands of a committee of the Soldiers’ Fathers’ League upon whom rests the responsibility of breaking such serious news to the relatives of the boys who die in service.

Willis Neal was the only child of Mr. and Mrs. J.A. Neal, who reside near East Chapel east of Osceola about five miles. Mr. and Mrs. Neal have been residents of Clarke county for a number of years and have already received the sympathy of a host of friends.

Sergeant Neal was graduated in the class of 1912 from the Osceola High school. Following his graduation he taught two years in the schools of Clarke county and one year in Carrol county. He enlisted in the army in June, 1917, and went to Fort Leavenworth where he received his military training for service in the Engineer Corps.

He sailed for France on March 30, 1918. He was wounded in service and died October 16th at the age of 24. He did not get to serve long on behalf of democracy and freedom from autocracy, but he served to the utmost. Sergeant Neal and many other of our Clarke county boys made the supreme sacrifice on our behalf.

A great cause led them on and they counted the cost not to great. Truly a patriot, a lover of home, of country and of humanity, has fallen. Sergeant Neal was a manly fellow, respected and loved by all who knew him. He was a member of the church of Christ in Osceola and assisted in the church services very materially, especially in the work of the choir.

His star of blue appeared on the service flag of the Christian Bible school. Alongside of other stars of his friends and comrades who have offered up their lives in the cause of righteousness and justice, his star has now turned to gold. It is the sign of a life lived at its best for “ greater love hath no man than this: that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

Besides his parents sergeant Neal leaves to mourn his departure Miss Ferne Clarke of West Bend, Iowa. Their sorrow is deep; their offering upon the altar on behalf of world democracy and universal peace makes us all their debtors, Clarke county will not forget.
The Osceola Democrat , December 19, 1918
Soldier Boys’ Bodies Coming

A.J. Neal and J.R. Puckett each received a message Monday announcing that the bodies of their sons Willis Neal and Walter Puckett would arrive in New York City July 15th, enroute from France under direction of the government.

Messages later on will announce the date when the remains of these two Clarke county soldier heroes of the World War will arrive in Osceola. Arrangements for the funerals will be arranged and announced in due time.
The OSCEOLA SENTINEL, July 14, 921

Soldier Boys’ Bodies to Rest in Native Land
Remains of Sergt. Willis Neal and Walter Puckett arrived Friday from France.

The hearts of two family circles wounded by supreme sacrifices made in the World war were again pierced with a dagger of sorrow last Friday when the bodies of Sergeant Willis Neal and Private Walter Puckett arrived from beyond the sea. The memories of a peaceful community, the citizens of which are gradually retrieving the losses caused by the most terrible war in the world’s history, were by the sight of government caskets, again aroused to the recollection of the days when our sons by fifties and hundreds marched away in preparation for the part our own great country took in winning the world for democracy. Our respect for them, living or dead, shall dwell forever in the minds of the generations who saw them depart to the battle front in foreign lands. We salute the living with hearts aglow with patriotism and we bow our hearts in the presence of the dead in sincere sympathy with those who know and realize more fully the great sufferings of war.

There was no lack of this respect shown to Sergeant Willis Neal and Private Walter Puckett at the occasions of their last sad rites, the former at the rural home of his parents and the later in the City Park in Osceola last Sunday afternoon. It was a day of reverence and quiet sympathy long to be remembered. In each instance members of the American Legion-comrades in uniforms of the army and navy-were present to add military honors to the sacred services of the hour.

In the presence of many relatives and friends of the family Rev. Ross, assisted by Rev. McKay, conducted a most impressive service at the home of Mr. and Mrs. J. A. Neal. Interment was made in Maple Hill cemetery.

Willis D. Neal was born in Montgomery county, Iowa, January 28, 1894. With his parents he moved to Clarke county when he was but four years of age and in this vicinity he grew to manhood. He united with the Church of Christ when he was sixteen years of age.

He graduated from the Osceola High school with the class of 1912. He was for some time engaged as a teacher … (unreadable) … enlisted in the World War June 4, 1917 and after due training at Ft. Leavenworth he was assigned to Co. F. 7th Engineers with which unit he sailed for France October 16, 1918. With his regiment he served overseas with the 5th Division.

Sergeant Willis Neal was one of a host of American soldiers who lost their lives in the battle front of the Argonne. By a letter from a comrade who was near Sergeant Neal when a Hun shell did its deadly work, we learn that he was one of a number to go to a dangerous position at the front to erect a bridge that troops might quickly cross a stream in the vicinity of Cunel which was not far from Verdun. The shrapnel that pierced his side proved fatal and there, on October 14, 1918, within the sound of the great guns of the soon to be victorious Allies, he gave his life, all that man has to give, to his country and flag.

The next day, October 17th, this beloved Clarke county hero was laid to rest in the American cemetery Les Paleys, Department Meuse, France, and to him and to his comrades who fell with him the American army paid the last sad military respect before continuing their march through barrages of shot and shell until the glad news of the Armistice on November 11th of that year.

The Osceola Sentinel July 28, 1921


Clarke Obituaries maintained by David Dinham.
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