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21 Nov

We see numerous stories in the news and on social media on a daily basis that make us angry, hurt, spiteful and mean spirited.  But we can not and should not let that news or those spreading it direct our daily interactions with others.  I tend to look for the brighter things in life to help focus my day rather than allow the negative opinions to impact my vision.

You probably know enough about me by now that you’ve guessed I tend to look toward nature and birds in general to brighten my days.  There is so much to be learned from them either by observation or by researching the topic.  Did you guess my topic today, though, would be about pigeons?  Yes, pigeons!  It is specifically about a pigeon named Cher Ami (which means ‘Dear Friend’ in French).

According to http://www.homeofheroes.com/wings/part1/3b_cherami.html  “when the United States entered World War I in 1917, the Army Signal Corps was given 600 pigeons for the purpose of passing messages when it couldn’t be done by signal flag or field phone”. It was the responsibility of the US Army Signal Corps to insure that messages between all units got through.

So, bird breeders in Great Britain donated the pigeons and American soldiers trained the pigeons for their jobs. An important message could be written on a piece of paper, then the paper neatly folded and secured in a small canister attached to the pigeon’s leg. Once released, the pigeon would fly to its home back behind the lines where the message would be read and transmitted to the proper military planners.

Cher Ami was probably the most famous of all the carrier pigeons. He flew 12 important missions, but perhaps the most important was the message he carried on October 4, 1918. The day before, Major Whittlesey and more than 500 men were trapped in a small depression on the side of a hill. Enemy soldiers surrounded them. That day, more than 300 men were killed or wounded. The next day, American commanders started dropping big artillery rounds where the Germans surrounded Major Whittlesey. They were unsure of where exactly the American soldiers were and ended up dropping the shells right on top of them. The Major used his last pigeon, Cher Ami, to take his note back across enemy lines. The note read:  “We are along the road parallel to 276.4. Our own artillery is dropping a barrage directly on us. For heavens sake, stop it.”

The Germans saw Cher Ami rising up out of the brush and opened fire. But somehow, Cher Ami managed to spread his wings and start climbing again, higher and higher beyond the range of the enemy guns. The little bird flew 25 miles in only 25 minutes to deliver his message. The shelling stopped and more than 200 American lives were saved….all because the little bird would never quit trying.

However, Cher Ami had been badly wounded. When he finally reached his coop, he could fly no longer. He had been blinded in one eye, and a bullet hit his breastbone making a hole the size of a quarter. A leg had almost been severed. In fact, it was the leg from which the canister hung with the all-important message. Once again, Cher Ami wouldn’t quit until he had finished his job.

Cher Ami became the hero of the 77th Infantry Division. The dedicated medics worked long and hard to patch him up. They actually saved Cher Ami’s life, but they couldn’t save his leg. When he was well enough to travel, the little one-legged hero was put on a boat to the United States.

This is the story of a ‘little bird that would never quit trying’.  He is on display in Washington, D.C. at the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution and certainly deserves to be.  I hope this story warmed your heart a bit on this cold and wintry day.  I know it did mine. 

 


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