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.
A couple of years ago, I had a long conversation with my Dad and extended family about the members of our family who have served in the U.S. military. As I asked for photos and asked for details from our family, others chimed in with stories and details about those members of my family who have served in the military. We have a very well documented family history on all our lines (back to the early 1800s and some as far back as the 1600s). We have veterans who served all the way back in 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; Great 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.
I went through our old photos and documents and want to share just a bit about 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
- Great Uncle G served in the navy and was a bombardier. (Below, left) He is still alive, in his 90s, and has always been very close to me; his wife of 67 years died a year ago.
- Great Uncle Harold served in the South Pacific (Above, right two photos)
- Great 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)
- Great Uncle Millard was killed in action in the Pacific.
- Great Uncle L, served in the navy in the Pacific. He lives near us and we see him quite often. We gathered with more than 100 family members to celebrate his 90th birthday last October. He lives on his own and continues to write prolifically. He has published a number of books.
- 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 and P’s wife ‘A’ were both officers in the Air Force. Uncle P served from 1967 to 1977. He was an officer performing administrative support and training research and development while stationed at Vandenberg AFB, Chanute AFB, Andrews AFB, Williams AFB, and Lackland AFB. Aunt A served as a medivac nurse from 1968 to 1972. She flew wounded soldiers from the Vietnam theater to military hospitals in the USA.
- My brother-in-law (my sister’s husband) was deployed there twice.
- My cousin S and her husband T served in military. Their older son, R, served as a marine. He was wounded just over a year ago during his second tour in Afghanistan; he lost his leg below the knee when an IED exploded. (You can read my short posts about our amazing R here when I first learned he had been wounded and here which was an update after several surgeries.) He received the purple heart in person from President Obama while he was in the hospital.
- My cousin S and her husband T’s youngest son is currently in Afghanistan.
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.
Who are you remembering today?
Teaching the Kids About Memorial Day:
If you and the kids are interested in doing something together to commemorate and learn more about Memorial Day, Jamerrill over at Free Homeschool Deals has put together a list of over 40 free printables, unit studies, videos and more: Free Memorial Day Resource Unit. Thanks for sharing all these, Jamerrill!