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Author Recounts Local Man's WWI Experience Through Letters

Can you really know someone you've never met?  Chris McDonald developed a bond with a man who lived a century ago through reading letters he had written, many from the front lines of World War I. 

McDonald worked with the family of Kent Dunlap Hagler to publish the works, which are far more literary than most teenagers could accomplish, now or then.  The book "Three Lying Or Four Sitting - From The Front In A Ford" takes its title from Hagler's time with a military ambulance unit.  It's references how many could be transported at a time.  

The book is more than a glimpse at a young man far from family.  The letters show what Hagler was thinking as he faced the prospect of death on the battlefield, including when he witnessed the fighting at Verdun.  Some of his letters were published in the local newspaper back home. 

"The descriptions in some of the letters are as good as any I have read, and I have read a lot of those sorts of things," said McDonald, who is professor at Lincoln Land Community College.  Growing up in Europe, he's always been fascinated with the first World War.  That's how he got involved with the project. 

Dunlap came from a well-to-do family in Springfield. His father was a doctor. His mother was involved in the town's social scene.  Kent went to prep school before Harvard.  He left college to serve in the war. 

"He's sharing particular details.  His descriptions of the conditions at the front where he was serving...there is one section where he talks about the battle of Verdun.  He describes the village he's been through as being like Riverton.  So he says imagine taking Riverton and destroying all the houses, and tearing the roofs off and scattering it around. That's where I am." 

McDonald will speak on the subject and hold a book signing on the Lincoln Land campus Saturday April 11 from 9-10 a.m. at the Trutter Center.  

Proceeds from the book go to the LLCC Scholarship Fund in the name of Kent Hagler. 

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