Even today French locals, other Europeans and Americans find themselves drawn to the Meuse-Argonne region of France. Once drawn there, many return time and again; often working on a multi-year research or preservation project. In this irregular interview series, the Webmaster hopes to introduce readers to some of these individuals and their labors of love.
John Schooley came to the Webmaster’s attention when he published a five minute video on his experience cycling the battlefields of the 109th Field Artillery Regiment, 28th Division. That video can be watched via this link: https://vimeo.com/286519064/0537e57d7a or on the website of WVIA, pbs station in Pennsylvania in the “short takes” section. Be sure to watch it!
1) What are your name, nationality and occupation?
John Schooley, USA, retired physician assistant
2) Which languages do you speak, and how fluently do you speak them?
3) When was your first visit to the Meuse-Argonne?
4) When did you really find yourself drawn to the Meuse-Argonne?
2011, visiting the Liberty Memorial and Museum in Kansas City. I spent time in the library and discovered the many connections I had to the war.
5) What is your primary interest in the region?
My grandfather and many of his friends and relatives, people who I knew or knew of, were in the 109th Field Artillery Regt. of the 28th Division.
6) Approximately how many times and/or how often do you visit the Meuse-Argonne?
Twice: May 2017 and June 2018.
In May 2017, on my bike ride in the Aire Valley, we went north from Varennes to Chatel-Chéhéry. The climax of my trip was cycling up Hill 244. My grandfather and his Battery D of the 109th FA did the same on Oct. 7 and 8, and were relieved on the 9th. I looked to the heavens and with a pang in my heart said, “Jacky, I’m Here!” We then cycled back to Apremont and on over to the Lost Battalion area, and back to our inn in Vienne le Château.
7) What do you do when you visit?
Visit the areas where my people of interest were.
8) What research or preservation projects are you working on currently?
Only personal research and writing, mainly for friends and family, not for publication.
9) What research or preservation projects have you completed in the past?
I prepared a five-minute video with WVIA, a PBS station in northeastern Pennsylvania.
10) What is your favorite spot in the Meuse-Argonne, and why?
Hill 244. I’m also fascinated with le Chene Tondu, and would like to experience it.
11) History aside, what is your favorite thing to do in the Meuse-Argonne?
Bicycle. It’s SO beautiful.
12) Schedule permitting, would you consider being a tour guide for individuals or groups traveling to the sector?
Yes, especially for people in NE Pennsylvania. However, my knowledge is relatively limited, and I’m not really a military history enthusiast.
13) How can readers contact you for assistance or for more details?
14) Any other comments?
I think bicycling is a great way to tour the area! The small roads are great. The sense of time and distance is much better appreciated on a bike.
Webmaster’s Note: Laurent Labrosse, owner of the Hotel-Restaurant du Commerce in Aubreville, France is also an avid cycler in the area.