Pennsylvania is home to thousands of towns and cities, and more than a few are small enough that you can miss them when you are passing through. Quentin is one little town of a little more than 200 households near where Routes 72 and 419 meet in Lebanon County. Most people associate Quentin with this intersection that includes a gas station, Quentin Haus restaurant and Quentin Riding Club on Route 72 from the Turnpike into Lebanon. I only recently learned that it was named for the son of President Theodore Roosevelt.
When the Great War (now World War I) broke out in Europe in 1914, Theodore Roosevelt was only a few years removed from the end of his presidency in March of 1909. When America was drawn into the conflict in 1917, it was Roosevelt's youngest son, Quentin, who dropped out of college and enlisted in the First Reserve Aero Squadron.
Quentin Roosevelt served in France, and he was shot down and killed July 14, 1918. The Germans buried him with military honors out of respect for his service.
The loss was reportedly a great one for the former president, who would also die within a year. At the time, the Quentin Roosevelt's death meant a great deal to the American people: The son of a popular president chose service over other options and it cost him his life at 20. It's hard to imagine a recent president's child enlisting and being killed in action; one of the greatest criticisms of our leaders during the past 65 years is that they are often of an elite class separated from the blustery cold Korean winters, the jungles of Viet Nam, the turmoil in Mogadishu, the deserts of Kuwait and Iraq and the unforgiving terrain of Afghanistan. TR and his family may have been wealthy, but they were not above serving the United States.
Today Quentin rests in Normandy American Cemetery beside the grave of his brother, Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt Jr., who died of a heart attack about a month after serving as the highest ranking officer to lead troops ashore on D-Day. Quentin Roosevelt, the only World War I casualty buried at Normandy, may be largely forgotten today, but he was not 95 years ago.
This little town in Lebanon County named itself in his honor. The airfield where he had trained in Long Island, N.Y., was also named in his honor (it no longer exists today). Quentin Roosevelt was honored many times throughout the United States, including Quentin Roosevelt Elementary School in Pittsburgh. Today, that school has been replaced by Roosevelt Elementary School, which belittles the honor to Quentin, as I am sure most people associate "Roosevelt" with Presidents Theodore and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
If you happen to travel through Lebanon County and venture near Quentin, take a second to remember the man who left college to serve his country and lost his life doing so. Fittingly, Quentin is located near the Veterans Administration hospital just outside Lebanon, where veterans of our armed forces with less prestigious lineage receive care and treatment. Take a moment to remember them as well.