All of us, at some point, need a hand

Just after 5 o'clock on the morning of Nov. 11, 1918, British, French and German officials gathered in a railway car just north of Paris and signed a document which would in effect bring to an end World War I.

The war to end all wars was finally over; and yet it wasn't, because the cease-fire would not come into effect for another six hours – at 11 a.m.

Henry Gunther would earn the dignified but dubious honor of being the last man to fall in the great war. A U.S. Army citation states that “Gunther — pinned down by enemy fire and visibly angry — bolted, with bayonet fixed, and charged the German machine-gun nest. At least one bullet shattered his head.” It was 10:59 a.m. Sgt. Henry Nicholas Gunther fell at the very moment the guns fell silent — the final scene in an epic tragedy that had been repeated more than 17 million times.

He was also a young, conflicted man who found himself in the middle of a nightmare and felt he had something to prove.

Looking back on him 100 years after his death, what strikes me is the notion of inner conflict he felt and how relatable it is to our current veteran community. Those who studied the circumstances of his death believe that Gunther, a German immigrant, was motivated by a desire to demonstrate, even at the last minute, that he was courageous and all-American.

Today there is often a stark difference in how we as a community view our service members and our veterans. Like Gunther, today’s veterans often feel they have something to prove, that the resources available to them should be reserved for someone who “really needs it.” Even those in crisis have a hard time accepting help, wanting to save it for their brother and sister in service.

Too often we think of our veterans as broken or unstable when the truth is our veterans fall along a diverse spectrum where some excel and others need a helping hand to get back on track. This Veterans Day, help prove to a veteran there is no shame in needing a hand up. All of us, at some point in our lives, need a hand to continue navigating the challenges of life.

Please go to to learn how you can help Easterseals to help a Maine veteran in need.

Joe Reagan

Senior Director of Development

Easterseals Maine