Memorial Day –With Love and Gratitude. Remembering those I have ‘loved and lost,’ who fought for democracy and freedom and lived to tell about it, but rarely spoke of their experiences. The few times they did relate stories I was always fascinated and drawn in, wishing to hear more. My cousin recently published and gifted me this memoir –
Men and Women of Honor, the World’s Greatest Generation.
Remembering my Uncles Al, Mike, Stan and Warren – Today, I am most grateful to my cousin for this memoir about their experiences, here in excerpts – “Our uncles all participated in key battles of the war and were awarded numerous medals for their participation and bravery. Once home, they rarely spoke about their experiences during this pivotal time in history.”
All but Uncle Mike went on to live long, productive, and happy lives enjoying their families and travel. Here are some excerpts of their military service –
Al was a corpsman in the US Army, 33 Infantry Division. Al “was awarded a bronze star for bravery directing the evacuation of wonder men from the front line on Northern Luzon, through enemy territory, under fire. A distant cousin from New Hampshire was one of the men that assisted in raising the flag at Iwo Jima.” Al lived to the age 94. His photos from Papua New Guinea remind me of those in a national geographic magazine. Uncle Al was always so supportive of my travels. When he was 74 years old we traveled to Normandy, France. I have wonderful memories of visiting war memorials, Arromanches and Saint Michel; a gift, and a life-long dream of his fulfilled.
Mike was in the European Theatre, 79th Division, 313rd Regiment, 3rd Battalion. He was at the battle of Normandy, among many others. He was responsible for the radio communication equipment and was wounded in battle. “He was awarded 5 Bronze Battles Stars, which were replaced by a Silver Battle Star.” Mike died in his 50’s of a heart attack; perhaps a life shortened by the stressors of war.
Stan was a soldier in the 38th Infantry Division, 152nd Regiment. “The bamboo sandals he bought for his mother in the Philippines recently returned to the Philippines through a nephew, and are on display in a museum. Stan received three Bronze Battle Stars for his participation in New Guinea, Southern Philippines, and Luzon.” Despite years serving at war, Uncle Stan retained his sense of humor, an easy laugh, and ‘a twinkle in his eye.’ The eldest surviving male of his family, he was often called upon to say grace at family reunions.
Warren was a corpsman in the 5th Marine Division-Company H. Warren, originally in the Navy, “was one of the men transferred from the Navy to the Marines, who needed corpsmen. He saw about 25 days of constant battle on Iwo Jima.” His story is immortalized in ‘Iwo Jima; The Boys of Company H.’ Many years later, Uncle Warren and his grandson Mike had the opportunity to board a Navy vessel and sail to Hawaii for a special ceremony at Pearl Harbor. At nearly 96, Uncle Warren is the sole survivor of my uncles that served in WWII.
These brave men from my family will never be forgotten. Their stories and legacies remain in their children and now in the book by my cousin. They are in my heart, forever loved.
Other Family WWII Connections –
My father was in his high school ROTC program at Saint Mel’s. He tried to enlist as a teenager, but was ‘denied for poor vision.’ He died at a young age when I was only 16, and is remembered every day. I have a wisteria plant that came from a cutting he received from my Uncle Stan over 40 years ago. Three years ago, I took a cutting from my mother’s. It sat in a bucket for two years before I had a chance to plant it. Surviving even the harsh winter of 2014, this wisteria now thrives at my home in Gloucester, in memory of my father.
My mother grew up on a farm in Indiana. As teenagers, she and her twin sister worked in a Raincoat Factory during WWII, inspecting raincoats supplied to the military. My mother tells a story of ‘slipping a piece of paper with her name and address into one of the pockets.’ Their job at the raincoat factory allowed them to go to nursing school in Chicago, where they joined their eldest sister who was married to Uncle Al. I share my mother and aunts’ love of nursing, gardening, and sense of adventure.
I am grateful to all those that put their lives on the line ‘in the call of duty’ to serve everyday.
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