In 1899 Albert De Laet moved to the United States of America. He left his native village of Burcht and bade farewell to everyone, including his brother Alexis. Initially he worked as a day labourer in Chicago. A few years later he married, started a family and moved to a farm in Wisconsin. Albert wanted his brother Alexis to come and live with him in America. In 1911, 26-year-old Alexis finally decided to take the big step and leave, with Albert’s encouragement and financial support.
World War I broke out three years later, prompting Alexis to join the army and fight for his country. On 4 February 1915 he departed for Belgium and the front line.
Albert stayed in the United States with his family, becoming a US citizen in 1916. Then, in 1917, the United States also entered the Great War. All American men were registered so they could be conscripted. Albert was also registered, but only in September 1918. As a result he was not called to arms as the war ended in November 1918.
Alexis was gravely wounded on several occasions at the front and was in hospital from March 1917 until January 1919. His lungs were in particularly bad shape. After the war he decided to stay in Belgium. The mustard gases that the Germans had used in the trenches shortened Alexis’s life significantly. He died sixteen years after the war, at the age of 49. Albert remained in the United States until he died.