When Lyla Kenyon and her husband, Kenneth, saw a column in the Tribune last week about a traveling World War I exhibit arriving at Mesa's Falcon Field, they were excited and had to go see it.
After all, Lyla has a personal connection to that war. She visited the exhibit, "Honoring Our History," that was at the Commemorative Air Force Arizona Wing Aviation Museum on Wednesday as a way of honoring her father and his boss.
As a member of the American Expeditionary Forces in France, her father, Lyle William Trump, served as a bodyguard for Gen. John J. "Blackjack" Pershing during his time in the Army's Company A, 134th U.S. Infantry out of Camp Cody, N.M. from 1918 to 1920.
Her uncle, Clifford Trump, was a bugler in the Army's band. The Trump brothers had served in the National Guard in Nebraska and earlier, prior to serving in France, were part of Pershing's forces hunting Mexican villain Pancho Villa in New Mexico.
Lyla, 83, a retired schoolteacher from California who has lived in Mesa for the last two and a half years, described her father as a country boy from Lincoln, Neb., who joined the army with his younger brother because it was "something they needed to do as a matter of pride." They saw their experience "an adventure" that would help make the world a safer place for democracy.
"It was a real honor for a country boy to serve as Gen. Pershing's bodyguard," Lyla said. "Wherever Pershing went, so did my dad and uncle. Gen. Pershing was all about respect and protocol, and my father had nothing but respect for him, real respect. Gen. Pershing was letter-perfect when it came to dress and he was all about business when there was business."
The "Honoring Our History" exhibit, which was part of the Kansas City-based National World War I Museum and featured 66 artifacts relating to the war, was visited by thousands of East Valley residents on Wednesday. Many of them, who were aided by walkers and canes as they stood in the line snaking around the back of the museum, had to wait an hour and 15 minutes to see it, according to Bennie Schmidt, one of the exhibit's planners for its sponsor, Waddell and Reed, also based in Kansas City.
The exhibit was set up in "The Big Rig," a tractor trailer outside the museum, and Mesa was among its 75 stops in cities throughout the United States. Admission to the exhibit was free, but donations are being accepted at the exhibit and at www.honoringourhistory.com to benefit local museums and cultural institutions during a time when many of them have faced budget cuts.
The exhibit arrived from Albuquerque as part of a national tour and the 75th anniversary of Waddell and Reed and its affiliate, Ivy Funds, one of the country's oldest mutual fund investment firms. After Wednesday, the exhibit moved on to California. Waddell and Reed's founders, Chauncey Waddell and Cameron Reed, were World War I veterans who served as pilots during the war.
Kenneth Kenyon, who turned 87 on Jan. 12, is a veteran of World War II, an Army sergeant who oversaw statistical information for the generals when he was stationed in India. His pride of serving his country in the Army Air Corps was apparent from the China-Burma-India operations commemorative cap he was wearing as he and his wife of 62 years toured the exhibit with keen interest.
"I think it's unusual to see a World War I exhibit," he said. "I watch television programs on the military channel and sometimes see a show about World War I and that's about it."
Lyla was not sure how her father was selected to be Pershing's bodyguard, but said her father was a "sturdy guy" who knew how to handle and shoot a gun in the wilderness of Wyoming where he lived as a youth, and she said that probably helped.
She also well remembers the story of how her father's unit was not happy when they were given smallpox vaccine for a second time before they went overseas, but that likely saved the lives of her father and uncle.
"German spies poisoned my father's guard unit's water with the diptheria virus before they left on a ship from New York," Lyla said. "Some of the men in their unit got sick and died before they went overseas. Since my father and uncle had been given the vaccine a second time, they didn't get sick, but my father lost part of his hearing because of it."
After serving in the war, William and Clifford Trump worked for the Los Angeles Fire Department and William Trump became one of the city's paramedics during World War II at a time when there was a shortage of doctors.
William Trump also knew how important it was to give support to servicemen returning home. The Trump brothers are long gone; Lyle William Trump died in 1994. However, their years of service are preserved in the black and white photographs of a book issued by Pershing in 1919, "The Honor Guard: A.E.F. in France." The book recounts a chapter in American history that many history buffs believe is becoming one of America's forgotten wars.
Years later, Lyla also discovered a picture of the Signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 in one of her father's scrapbooks, marking the end of the war. Her father and Pershing were present at the signing.
"When I saw that, it just blew me away," she said.
Like the artifacts in the "Honoring Our History" exhibit, her pictures and book are national treasures that once belonged to a generation of veterans that no longer exist.
Someday those treasures will be passed on to her daughter, Ilene Johnson, a kindergarten teacher at Mesa' Hale Elementary School, and then on to her grandchildren, the reason she and her husband moved from Sedona to Mesa, so they could be closer to them.
"General Pershing was a great man," Lyla said with emotion. "My father was proud to serve him and our country. It's a proud part of our history that we cherish."
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