Today is Memorial Day in the United States, a holiday formerly and still solemn for many, that once was called Decoration Day. Its origins lie mostly in the immediate post-Civil War period with the women who decorated the graves of fallen soldiers and began a move toward a national day of mourning. According to Wikipedia, the early southern Decoration Day celebrations were simple, somber occasions for veterans and their families to honor the dead and tend to local cemeteries. The custom spread to the north and became widespread, incorporating military parades.
Decoration Day, celebrated on May 30 because of the proliferation of spring flowers, was first called Memorial Day in 1882. It wasn’t officially named that until 1967, and in 1968 became one of several national holidays to take place on a Monday rather than a date certain.
More than a million military men and women have given their lives in military service to the United States of America. Wickeds and friends, who will you remember today? In which conflict did he or she die?
Barb: I’m not aware of anyone in my family who has been killed in a war. My father served in Korea, his father in World War I, and his uncle and uncle-in-law in World War II. My great-great grandfather served in the Civil War. You can read some of his letters home to his niece, Alice, here. Ancestry.com informs me of many veterans before them, going back to the Revolution and beyond. It’s a long chain of sacrifice to bring us to today.
Sherry: Like Barb I’m not aware of anyone in my family who was killed in action. But my dad served in WWII. He’s buried in Barrancas National Cemetery in Pensacola, Florida. While we were in Florida visiting my mom over Christmas, my husband and I were able to stop at Barancas on our way to the airport. It was a cold, rainy, windy day. But It’s a very moving place and I’m grateful to the strangers who place wreaths every year at Christmas.
Edith: My grandfather and father served in the military during World Wars I and II, and my brother is a veteran, too, but they all survived. My grandfather’s brother, Leslie Maxwell, died in combat in WWI, and my beau Hugh’s uncle Hugh William, whom he is named for, died in the Pacific in WWII. I was able to find this picture of his grave marker in the Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines – all I did was email his name, and they generously mailed back the digital picture. I had a print made and gave it to his youngest sibling, Hugh’s Aunt Joyce, the last living member of that Lockhart generation, who was deeply touched.
Liz: I don’t know of anyone in my family either who died in a war. My grandfather had an illness that prevented him from fighting in WWII, but he and my grandmother both volunteered in the war efforts. I remember hearing them talk about it when I was young. I remember my grandfather being disappointed he couldn’t be in the actual fight, and my grandmother being proud to have contributed in the ways she did.
Jessie: There are many veterans in my own family but none who died in conflicts. My mother’s paternal grandmother served in WWII and out ranked her own sons before the end of the war. She and her sister are the inspiration for two characters in my Change of Fortune series, Elva and Dovie Velmont. My maternal grandfather served in the Pacific theater in WWII and one of my uncles served in Vietnam. Another of my uncles served in the same time period in the Coast Guard. Knowing how their efforts colored the rest of their lives is humbling today and always.
Julie: One of my grandfather’s served in World War I, and the other served in World War II. My uncle served in Vietnam. One of the people I think about was my father’s cousin, David Holmes, who was shot down in Vietnam in 1966 and was declared dead twelve years later. He and my father were close, and he was the only child of Aunt Frances and Uncle Al. David’s loss is but one story about how one person loss has repercussions throughout a family. To all who served, or who have served, thank you.
Readers: Who do you remember today?
Like most of you, I have many relatives who served but who managed to make it home, although not without some health issues that haunted them. My dad and uncle served in WW2. And I had a cousin who fought in Vietnam. He came home but suffered multitudes of health issues related to exposure to Agent Orange. I think he suffered the effects until the day he died in a car crash over ten years ago.
Vietnam had so many lingering bad effects for the vets.
But how many know it was actually started by the black soldiers of the GAR?
I have many veterans in my family and lost my husband nearly 11 years ago (complications of cancer). He had suffered from undiagnosed PTSD all during our marriage. He served in WWII and Korea. Both my parents, three of my brothers, and my son all served.
I didn’t know that, Barbara.
I think of my great-great-grandfather Silas Barton quite often (and in one form or another he appears in a lot of my books). He was the youngest of four sons, all of whom enlisted as soldiers in Springfield, Massachusetts, during the Civil War. Silas was only 16 at the time, so his father had to give his official approval. All the sons survived, although one was injured (I have his medical report). Some kindly officer up the line must have seen how young Silas was, because he spent the war on an island in Boston Harbor and never saw battle. He went on to a wide range of careers. But on his tombstone in Waltham is engraved “Corporal”. Clearly his service was important to him, and he was active in the administration of the Grand Army of the Republic for many years. I have one letter that Silas wrote to his mother which he was in the army, in which he promises to become a better person.
What a treasure to have that letter, Sheila. Is he related to Olive?
My Uncle Jimmy, my husband’s father and his mother (she was a WAAC) all served in and survived WWII. My brother and husband both served in and survived Vietnam. My Uncle Karl died on the USS Quincy at Savo Straits in WWII. My thoughts turn to him, and all the others lost throughout the ages to the present day on this Memorial Day.
And my thoughts as well, Kait.
My grandfather , a recent immigrant – and underage!-served in World War I. He was proud of it his whole life and may have been the only local member of both the American Legion and the Democratic Party! Several of my relatives,including my father, were in the military in World War 11, including some in active combat, and all returned. One was a pilot in the Canadian Air Force and I remember him telling funny stories about his time in England. It was his wife who told my mom about the nightmares.
I can’t imagine anyone serving in war who didn’t have nightmares as a result.
Although my Dad didn’t die in his service to his country, he was a lifelong military man. He proudly served his country in WWII, Korea and Vietnam in a 29 year service in the U. S. Army.
As an Army brat, I saw first hand the service to and dedication that our men and women have for this great nation of ours. Some sacrificed time away from families and loved ones and some gave the ultimate price. Today as we honor those that gave their all, I hope we realize truly their sacrifice so that we may live free in this beautiful country we live in. God bless them and give them their just rewards in heaven!
Wasn’t it also called “Veteran’s Day”?
My family has served this country for well over one hundred and fifty years. My daughter did two tours in Irag. My brothers’ in Nam, my father and step father in WWII and Korea. I had one cousin (his father came from Jerusalem in the late 1800’s) who was a spook in three wars.
We have always honored those who serve, It’s a family tradition.
Veteran’s Day is in the fall now, and was formerly Armistice Day, I think. A good tradition!
I think of my two grandfathers who both fought in WWII. One grandfather was a B-17 piolet and flew his first mission on D-Day! My other grandfather was a supply person on the lines in Italy. I also think of my Great Grandfather who served in WII. I also think of the Vietnam Vets who march in my village’s annual 4th of July parade. I think America has forgotten over the years why this is such an important holiday. We need to remember our past and think of our present soldiers.
I agree, Andrea.
Lots of veterans in my family, but all returned home. Both grandfathers were in WWII; one in Europe, one in the 1st Armored Division, originally in North Africa then Europe. One grandmother was a Navy nurse (it’s how she met my grandfather; he was being treated stateside for tuberculosis) and one worked at Bell Airplane as a Rosie the Riveter (the inspiration for my newest book). My father was in the Army Reserves for almost 25 years, but never had to be deployed. My husband served in the First Gulf War and Operation Enduring Freedom.
I’m glad they all returned home, Liz.
My great uncle (my father’s uncle on his mother’s side) died of wounds after the Battle of Leyte Gulf in WW2. His name was Edward Guidroz, and he was a farm boy who wanted to see the world. He was buried at sea, but his name is engraved in a wall of remembrance at the Manila American Cemetery in the Philippines. I went in search of information about his death and burial, and was greatly aided by the American Battle Monuments Commission. I am thankful for their work as well.
How sad that Edward wanted to see the world but was killed, instead. You were the source for my finding the photo of Hugh’s uncle’s grave marker, Ramona. Aunt Joyce thanks you!
My husband went to West Point and on Memorial Day we remember his classmates who were killed in Vietnam. My son is a major in the army and he remembers his “brothers” who were lost in Iraq. They don’t have to be blood relatives to be remembered.
Of course not, Kitty. That must be so hard for your husband and son. I’ve read so much about the tight bonds serving in the military can create.
I have lots of family members who served in the military over the years — all buT two returned home. My dad’s brother served in the Navy on the Arizona and was killed during the Pearl Harbor bombing. My cousin’s son was in the Army and was killed in Iraq.
It must have been so hard for your father to lose a brother, and and your cousin a son. Glad the rest came home.
My Grandfather served in WWII and my Dad served and was wounded in the Korean War. Today I remember my Father-in-Law’s cousin, George Parten Fowler, who went down with the U.S.S. Arizona at Pearl Harbor — he had just turned 19 ~
That breaks my heart, Celia – a nineteen year old.
I remember my Navy shipmates who died while in the service. In high school, I marched in the Memorial Day parade in Gettysburg with the high school band, and sang the Battle Hymn of the Republic at the National Cemetery there, surrounded by the graves of those who died at Gettysburg during the Civil War.
So many sad deaths.
I remember my father who was in the Bataan Death March in the Philippines and spent three years in a Japanese POW camp. I remember my seven uncles who served in WWII, my husband, brother-in-law, niece, and nephew who served. But right now, I’m thinking of my daughter and her husband who are currently serving. And finally, I remember all the sailors and WAVES I served with during my seven years in the Navy.
Grace, I never knew you were in the Navy. That your father survived that experience is remarkable. So much service.
My dad and three of his brothers, and so many other relatives of his served in WW II that the local newspaper ran an article about them. They all returned home, fortunately. My dad’s two younger brothers were in the military later on. Some of my cousins are veterans, including one who made the military his career,
A friend from a high school youth group I belonged to was killed in Vietnam about a month before he was due to return to the states. I think of this funny, brilliant, shy young man at this time of the year.
I should think you would, Deb.
While I have many veterans in my family, they all made it home alive.
Today, however, I think of Rudy. He was in my Jr. High youth group and went on to serve in Afghanistan as a medic. He was killed while over there in 2011. Memorial Day has had a somber overtone to me every year since.
Of course it has, Mark.
My grandfather Al was in WW 1 in the Navy and came back alive. My Dad and Uncle Lawrence both served in Korea, my uncle shipping overseas in an artillery unit and he came back alive. My dad was in the Signal Corps but was deemed to valuable so he stayed behind while most of his unit went overseas and died! I know it haunted him the rest of his life but he made sure none of his kids ever would see war. I became eligible the same day Vietnam ended! He did his duty!
Good for him. One can just imagine his thoughts at being saved while so many died.
My father served in the Air Force in Germany where he met my mother. (thank goodness, lol) When he returned he was a policeman, but changed to the Air National Guard. He served in the Korean War, did drops during the Croatian issues and served in the first Gulf War. Like most of you I am blessed and lucky enough that my father made it through all of that. He is still around and every day wishes he could still serve. Today I am remembering a friend of mine’s son. He perished in the Gulf War. He was her only child. Thank goodness we have these amazing people who have fought for all of us.
I think of my husband’s parents who were both in the Army during WWII. My mother-in-law was a nurse who volunteered to serve, in a MASH unit less than a mile from the front lines, in France. My father-in-law was a doctor in a hospital in Paris, where they first met. My husband served in the Army and was stationed in Germany during the Vietnam era. My father and uncle served in the Army during the Korean Conflict. I have many uncles and cousins who served in the military. They all returned home from the service, but one young great uncle who died while serving in the Pacific during WWII.
Much service in your family, Annette. Just imagine the trauma of being a mile from the front lines in a war like WWII. She clearly raised a fine son, since you wanted to marry him!
I have a few uncles who were killed in WWII, but I also keep in my heart the countless soldiers who returned home from war with PTSD and TBI and eventually lost their lives to those demons. My heart breaks for their families and the ones they left behind.
We don’t honor our Canadian/American soldiers enough. So many of them that have PTSD quite often have fallen through the cracks and that is so unfortunate as they have saved so many lives and unfortunately have seen so much destruction and suffering. More has to be done.
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