By Edie Schmierbach
---- — Phil Hodapp Jr. of Cleveland rarely misses out on local Veterans Days observances. During his 43 years as a member of an American Legion Color Guard, he has honored hundreds of deceased military veterans from the area.
This year, however, Hodapp will spend the holiday in Kansas City, Mo., at the National World War I Museum participating in a salute to his father and others who served in The War to End All Wars.
Hodapp and his wife, Shirley, will join several family members for a Walk of Honor program recognizing World War I veterans. Living History volunteers wearing historically authentic uniforms will present attendees with inscribed granite bricks. The pavers, including the one bearing the Hodapp name, will later be installed as part of a memorial near the museum's entrance.
Philip Hodapp Sr. was the recipient of two Silver Star citations for his actions during World War I. The veteran soldier did not receive much fanfare for his gallantry while he was alive.
“The first medal came in the mail,” Phil Jr. said.
He was back in the States for quite some time, was married and busy at work. His wife, Lillian (Quinn) had picked up the unexpected envelope at the post office on her way home from church. She put it in a pocket of her Sunday coat, where it stayed forgotten for about a week.
The medals were awarded in recognition of distinguished service while in the 20th Company, Fifth Regiment, Second Division, of the American Expeditionary Forces during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in France. Hodapp had been a young private and a member of a brigade that fought at Belleou Woods.
“That battle stopped the Germans from getting Paris. It turned the tide (of the war),” Phil Jr. said.
Hodapp was part of a volunteer mission that took out a German machine gun nest during the battle. “Dad and I talked a little bit about it,” Phil Jr. said. “But he was not much of a talker and neither am I.”
Hodapp, who survived injuries suffered when three German bullets struck his cartridge belt, eventually returned home. After his military service, Hodapp operated a clothing store on Madelia’s main street. He died in 1971.
The Great War — World War I — officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed June 28, 1919. However, fighting had ceased seven months earlier when a temporary cessation of hostilities between the Germans and Allies went into effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. For that reason, Nov. 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of The War to End All Wars.
In 1919, President Wilson proclaimed Nov. 11 as Armistice Day. In 1954, the observance was renamed Veterans Day.
Several of Hodapp's descendants — including some of the attendees at today's ceremonies — also are military veterans. Philip H. Hodapp was the patriarch in Minnesota’s first four-war American Legion family. A news brief about the Hodapps was published in The Madelia Times-Messenger soon after the veterans organization’s eligibility period was expanded to include Vietnam era soldiers. Three of the World War I veteran’s four sons had served in the military — Jim served in World War II, Phil Jr. served in the Korean War, and Steve served in Vietnam and was the family’s newest Legionnaire.
Tim Hodapp, Phil Jr.’s grandson, represents the latest generation in the family’s tradition of military service. He is a U.S. Marine stationed in Iraq.