My wife has many irons in the fire and one of the irons is doing private training at veterinary clinics. She does private contracting for several companies. A veterinary clinic, who want training, contacts one of the companies and the company contacts Laurel to see if she would like to do the training. Laurel has made the decision she would travel about 4 hours from home. With were we live in western Wisconsin, the travel zone is all of Wisconsin and most of Minnesota and parts of northern Iowa and Illinois. If the date of the training works with my schedule I ride shotgun on the trip. Four hour trip, four hour training and four hour trip home makes for a long day. When I go with I can help with some of the driving. And for me….I don’t just sit and do nothing waiting on Laurel to do her training, I explore the town. This past weekend it was Chicago’s turn, more specifically the Wheaton area of Chicago.
I did a little pre trip search and found a few thing to check out in the area. One of the highlights in the area I wanted to visit was Cantigny and was a short drive from the clinic. We left home about 6:30 in in the morning and made our way to Chicago with an expected arrival time at around noon. We made our way to the clinic and arrived at noon with an uneventful trip. We were left with an hour to grab lunch before the training session and we found a small coffee shop next door to the clinic and they also served pizzas. After lunch I dropped Laurel off at the front door and I headed off on my big adventure.
I made the short drive to Cantigny estate and stared enjoying the sunshine and mild temperature. When I arrived at the front gate was a man sitting in a booth collecting money. Five dollar admission fee to Cantigny. That is five dollars for the car load! With me alone that is the maximum fee per person. I grabbed my camera and started at the First Division Museum. As I walk the path leading to the museum I was walked the tank park. The tanks were from the last 100 years. Starting with the M1917, serving in WWI and following history to the Abrams M1 serving in Desert Storm.
I enter the First Division Museum and started my journey through the displays. In the lobby stood 4 uniformed soldiers representing different eras of the Army. These displays started with a uniformed soldier from the Revolutionary War and including the Civil War, Spanish-American and the Mexican Punitive Expedition. I looked over the display then entered the display dedicated to the history of the US Army’s First Division, The Big Red One. The division was established on June 8, 1917. The Big Red One is almost 100 years old and still serving this nation.
I found myself entering the small town of Cantigny, France in 1917. The battle had ravaged the small town but it was the first victory by the First Division in WWI. Robert McCormick fell in love the town and would rename his estate after the small town. The small street turned the corner and I found myself in a WWI trench. There was a tank perched above trench and the trench was also covered in barb wire. I looked up from the trench to see a soldier pointing his rifle at me.
I continued thru the bunker system and started my travels into 30’s and WWII. I walked the early years of the war but I was impressed with little movie I stopped for and watched. I tapped the play movie button and took a seat in the amphibious theater and watched. The movie was a soldier writing a good bye letter to his wife. This was D-Day. The Big Red One was in the amphibious unit making its way to the shores of France. As the movie finished the screen raised and I was looking at the beaches of Normandy.
The beach was littered with heavy iron and barb wire. It was a strong visual of the beach and wasn’t dodging enemy fire. I continued my way to the Battle of the Bulge and VE Day with the end of the war. The First Division story continues into the jungles of Vietnam.
The jungle was dark and eerie. There was another movie about the First Division history and its service in Vietnam. after I had finished going thru the museum I saw a photo of a soldier standing in the jungles. I had walked right passed him and never saw him. The museum ended with a brief stop in the desert and Operation Desert Storm.
This is a true treasure for those men and women who have serve this nation and especially the US Army’s First Division. Thank you for your service!
If you are ever in the Chicago area make a point to stop at Cantigny and visit the First Division Museum. There was more to see and do and I hope to make a visit in the summer and take a tour of the McCormick estate and walk the gardens.