Memorial Day was formerly known as Decoration Day and started after the Civil War to commemorate the fallen Union Soldiers. By the 20th century Memorial Day was extended to honor all Americans who have died in wars.
Last week we spent the entire week with my family: my folks, my sister, brother-in-law and their three kids. We had some long conversations about the members of our family who have served in the U.S. military. We have a very well documented family history on all our lines (back to about the early 1800s) — and have veterans who served all the way back to the Civil War. We could count more than fifteen family members who have served in the military. We have only one member who actually died in combat; Uncle Millard (on my husband’s side) who died serving on a ship in the Pacific in WWII. There is a memorial with his name on it in the Philippines, but we don’t remember quite where his ship went down.
When I got home from our vacation last night, I went through our old photos and documents to share just a bit of our family memories this Memorial Day:
Civil War: Frank (my great, great grandfather) was a farmer and served for a total of 4 1/2 years in the Union Army. His first tour was from July 1861 to December 1863. He was a private in the Company A, 21st Regiment Indiana Infantry. His second tour was from Jan. 1864-Jan. 1866. Perry, his brothers Dave and William and their father were all in the Civil War. Apparently when my gr, gr grandfather was asked what his full name was he replied Perry Oliver Christopher X and the officer replied that it was too long. “From now on you’ll be known as plain Frank X.” The name stuck through the war and through life. Below are the two pictures we have of Frank, the one on the left was taken right after the Civil War:
WWI: I don’t have any details except this old photo (Below, on the left) of my relative, Oscar, in his WWI uniform. Hubby’s relative, Bill (photo below on the right) was stationed in Texas during WWI.
WWII: The list of those who served in WWII from our families is quite long. From my side
- Uncle G served in the navy and was a bombardier. (Below, left) He is still alive and has always been very close to me.
- Uncle Harold served in the South Pacific (Above, right two photos)
- Uncle John served in the navy in the Pacific.
- My Grandfather served in the coast watch in Washington state.
- My other Grandfather worked as a carpenter on a U.S. army base.
- Hubby’s grandfather served in the Navy as a lieutenant. (Pictures below)
- Uncle Millard was killed in action in the Pacific.
- Uncle L, served in the navy in the Pacific. He lives near us and we see him quite often.
- My father-in-law served for about five years in Vietnam (1965-1969). I don’t know if he served on this ship (pictured right) the entire time but he definitely served on the USS Towers from at least Feb. 1965-June 1965. Those are the dates of his personal log (which is about 75 pages long). It’s fascinating reading; here’s an excerpt from his personal log Feb. 14, 1965: “Viet Cong is at it again. I read where they sailed a hundred small boats down a river into some town (Dan Nang? Dar Huong?) to make a landing in broad daylight. They carried villagers with them as hostages. The idea was to land and infiltrate into the town. The town constable warned them back and then gave permission to the U.S. troops to fire on them. That caused a halt and a retreat. What a pity, but what else could be done. The troops hated to fire, I’m sure, but that’s exactly what the Cong expected. At any rate, I doubt that trick will be tried again.” After he returned from Vietnam (in 1969), my husband’s Dad worked in the Foreign Service; he was killed in South Africa in an accident. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
- Uncle P served in Vietnam.
- Aunt A served in Vietnam as a transport nurse.
- My brother-in-law (my sister’s husband) was deployed there twice.
- My cousin’s older son served as a marine. He was wounded just over a year ago during his second tour in Afghanistan. (More here and here.) He received the purple heart from President Obama.
My cousin S and her husband T served in military. Their youngest son is currently training to be a marine.
My cousin T served in the military.
My father worked for the navy for 30 years.
We are so lucky that we lost just one family member in these many years of service and are grateful to all those who have or are currently serving.