(Nov. 9, 2018) While investigating Morris Cemetery in Selbyville earlier this year, military history buff Dennis Theoharis was astonished to stumble upon the gravesite of WWI veteran L.D. Morris, who was killed on the French front lines 100 years ago this October.
Theoharis, who resides in Selbyville, said the tiny family gravesite is located just above the Maryland line on Hudson Road, which becomes Bishopville Road south of Route 54.
“I came across grave stones but there were three of them that [looked] like tombs,” he said. “It looked like a little coffin upside down.”
If the unusual grave architecture was not eye catching enough, Theoharis said a trio of roughly three-foot-tall monument-like headstone markers were virtually impossible to ignore.
“I read the mom and dad’s (gravestones) and got to the third one and started reading about L.D. Morris,” he said.
Pfc. Levin David Morris, who was born on May 26, 1888, was killed in combat on Oct. 14, 1918 while engaging in trench warfare in the Argonne Forest near Champ Mahaut.
Morris, who fought with the 328 Infantry Regiment, was among 137 casualties the company suffered during October 1918, according to a summary of WWI operations issued by the American Battle Monuments Commission.
“It said an artillery and machine gun barrage got him,” he said. “The shame of it was the Armistice Day, which is now Veterans Day, Nov. 11, was less than a month away.”
Levin David Morris was the son of Levin J. and Sallie M. Morris, who passed in October 1922 and December 1888, respectively.
“On Oct. 14, I got two little American Flags and put a flag at the headstone marking and at the front of the grave and then I saluted him for his service to his country,” he said. “Here’s a guy a hundred years ago who gave his life for his country.”
The percentage of WWI veterans killed in action and buried in private plots is only a fraction of those who made the ultimate sacrifice, with Theoharis noting the War Department, which became the Department of Defense in 1949, offered family members the option of having their loved ones permanently buried in Europe or shipped home.
“Obviously, the family wanted him shipped home and he was buried on, I guess, the family farm,” he said. “He was one of more than 50,000 Americans killed in combat during the war.”
According to the National Archives, approximately 4.7 million American men and women served during WWI, with more than 116,000 killed in combat or by disease, and about 200,000 military members wounded.
“Most people don’t realize that was as many as Vietnam and in Korea,” he said. “That was the last entrenched war where they got in trenches and they just kept shooting … and trying to blow each other up.”
While estimates vary slightly, about 58,000 American service members were killed during the Vietnam conflict with roughly 33,000 killed in the Korean War.
Theoharis said L.D. Morris’ gravestone inscription illuminates the interminable loss experienced by families of service members who depart for battle but fail to return.
“Farewell to you, a precious one from us has gone,” the words chiseled in stone read. “A voice we loved is stilled. A place is vacant in our home which never can be filled.”