Blount County man shares memories of father serving in World War I

Ben Cooper

MARYVILLE (WATE) – Americans paused Thursday to honor and remember the many sacrifices soldiers made 100 years ago. The U.S. joined World War I on April 6, 1917. Millions of people died while serving their countries, 115,000 of which were from America.

The Blount County Veterans Affairs office held a commemorative wreath service outside of their War Dead Memorial in Maryville Thursday morning to thank World War I veterans for their bravery.

“It’s very special because those veterans are gone and if we don’t remember them and what they did for America, our freedom, it was the Great War, the War to End All Wars,” said Veterans Affairs Director Nathan Weinbaum.

Dozens of old pictures are framed and hanging from a wall in Ben Cooper’s home. His father bravely served in the Army during World War I.

“Dad cut timber for a living before he went in the service,” said Ben Cooper.

Ben Cooper

The picture of Cooper’s dad, Tom Cooper, in his uniform is his favorite. Tom Cooper was born in 1884 and Ben Cooper believes he joined the Army when he was roughly 31 years old.

“I don’t know if he went in 16 or 17, but he was a cook and he ended up being in France,” said Ben Cooper.

He was just a little boy when his father passed away.

“I remember walking down to the end of the road. There was a couple of World War I veterans, Jimmy Dire and Anderson Hatcher, and they would sit and talk about the war,” he said.

Only a few stories from The Great War were shared with Ben Cooper.

“There was some French line, I don’t know which line it was, the trenches and stuff. The Germans had almost overrun it or did overrun it and they started shooting gas grenades or bombs or shells and all the cooks, and all the people in the rear even the medical people, they all got gassed,” said Ben Cooper.

He feels there’s a sort of connection with his dad because he served our country too. Ben Cooper was drafted into the Army during the Vietnam War and so it’s hard to believe 100 years ago, his dad was off to battle.

“I’m sure dad served honorably because Mama said he loved to wear the uniform,” added Cooper. “I watch every World War I documentary. I watch them and keep thinking I might see my dad.”

The Tennessee Great War Commission says on Friday’s “First Friday” open house event at the McClung Museum is devoted to World War I. It’s on UT’s campus and runs from 1 to 3 pm.



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