On Monday an American soldier killed in action will be buried in Arlington cemetery with full military honors. This soldier was not, however, killed in Iraq or Afghanistan, but in eastern France in 1918.
Private Thomas D. Costello (60th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 5th Infantry Division) was killed during what was known as the St. Mihiel Offensive in a wooded area near Jaulny on September 16, 1918 and was buried near the scene.
Although the location of Costello's grave was reported at the time, the Army was unable to locate the exact spot after the war. Costello's body was only discovered in 2006 and identified using "forensic identification tools and circumstantial evidence," including dental records.
Among the details revealed about Costello is the fact that he was born in Ireland in 1892. Costello was living with his sister in New York at the time he enlisted.
In some ways Costello's death seems almost like ancient history. Yet, during the fighting which claimed his life, he wasn't far from where my own grandfather's regiment (165th Infantry) was involved. Costello never came home, never had a chance to marry, have a family or descendants. That my Irish immigrant grandfather was spared where Costello wasn't is just one of those things, part of the lottery that is warfare.
Costello's nearest living relative, his great-great nephew Michael Frisbie of Maine, will be at Arlington for the ceremony. Until the Army contacted him, Frisbie never knew he had a great-great uncle who had fought in WWI. It's great that Costello's been found, is being buried where he belongs (although the American cemetery at St. Mihiel would have been equally appropriate) and is now remembered by a family - and a nation - that had forgotten him.
No Irish Need Apply? Not anymore