A few weeks ago after a significant snowfall in northern France, Hubert Caloud paid his respect to a particular World War I headstone.
All of the more than 6,000 markers at Oise-Aisne American Cemetery are significant, especially for Caloud, who is the site superintendent; but the marker for Pvt. Omar Shearer has personal ties, too.
Shearer fought in the area during WWI with Caloud’s great uncle and was killed in July of 1918 when hit by German artillery fire, only a week after his 18th birthday, according to the superintendent.
Caloud’s great uncle, Bill Kucera, survived the war but died later from complications of being heavily gassed, he said.
Caloud also refers to Shearer affectionately as a fellow Hawkeye, or Iowa native.
In fact, in Shearer’s Iowa hometown of Guthrie Center, between Omaha and Des Moines, the American Legion post is named in his honor.
Caloud also had another great uncle fight in the same region of France in World War II, meaning he is the third generation of his family to represent America in the country, a fact that he says isn’t lost on the locals he meets.
“It means something to the people that I can say my family fought for this ground,” he said.
The Oise-Aisne American Cemetery is one of a dozen managed in France by the American Battle Monuments Commission.
Caloud himself served 30 years in the Marine Corps before joining ABMC, a second career of service he relishes.
“We speak for the guys that can’t talk,” said the ABMC cemetery superintendent.
Written by Caloud: Omar B Shearer from Guthrie Center Iowa. He was in the same Machine Gun Company as my maternal grandmother’s brother. My Great Uncle William F Kucera. Uncle Bill survived the war but was gassed several times badly and died of it’s effects after the war in a Veterans Hospital.
MG Company 168th Infantry was Iowa National Guard. The main road going to the airport in the Capitol of Des Moines, Fleur Drive, is named after their Company Commander who was killed. Omar enlisted at age 16 was killed a week after his 18th birthday a couple kilometers [a little over over a mile] from my house.
Hubert Caloud, a native of Traer, Iowa, served over 30 years in the military before retiring. In retirement he has been serving with the American Battle Monuments Commission, overseeing American cemeteries throughout the world.
Written by the American Battle Monuments Commission.
I recognized Omar Shearer’s name right away from researching my Grandma Leora’s early marriage years, which included taking over her Goff brothers’ popcorn farm in 1918 since those brothers had been drafted and were in France. And my own mother was born on that farm that August.
The Guthrie Center newspapers carried transcriptions of the Goff brothers (and others), and also the awful news of the death of Omar Shearer, who was the first casualty of the Great War from Guthrie Center, Iowa.