When I put out the call for our readers to share their stories about beloved veterans on this Memorial Day, I had no idea what to expect.
And what an amazing surprise it turned out to be.
In one of those coincidences that would prompt my wife to remind me that there are no coincidences, I received precisely 16 posts, one for every half hour of the work day. The essays were alternatively touching, funny, sentimental, inspiring and emotional.
Thanks to all of you who shared your stories with The Recovering Politician today. You made my Memorial Day extra special. As I hope it was for our readers as well.
Tomorrow we return to our usual fare. Thanks for joining us today.
My husband’s father passed away in late March at the age of 87. I wrote this piece the next day. It originally appeared on my blog MavenMama on Bluegrassmoms.com.
Everyday approximately 1,100 World War II veterans die. I was floored when my husband shared this statistic with me, until I realized how many served in that war – 16.1 million.
Tonight, my father-in-law joined the ranks of these comrades in arms and passed quietly away. At eight-seven, he had lived long and hardily all the way to the end. Just an hour before he collapsed he was sitting in his favorite recliner watching his much loved hockey team on the television in the assisted living apartment he shares with his wife of sixty-four years.
As my husband and I sat alternately weeping and laughing he wondered aloud if we are ever really ready for the passing of a parent. Even when our parents have had more than their fair share of life, and are ready to journey to their Heavenly Father, it is still a blow, a sad surprise. Even when the best and worst case scenarios of “ways to pass” have been discussed and played out in long distance phone calls and in quiet conversations, and the best case scenario does indeed come to fruition one is not prepared.
And with the passing of Frank, and other veterans like him, who protected us and liberated millions more in allied countries, it is the end of an era. An era of brave men who served their country and then returned to marry their sweethearts, go to college on the GI Bill, buy their first home, and raise a family in a middle-class-town.
Yes, he served his family and his country well and it is indeed the end of an era.
My Uncle Allen J. Whalen; a native of Cynthiana, Harrison County, Kentucky.
He was a member of the US Army Air Corps during WWII in Asia, including China and Guam.
He spent his adult life as a farmer in Bourbon County, KY.
At a very young age, my grandfather, Charles Hamilton, fought in the Korean War.
My grandfather never said much about the war, but he did tell the family about the time his comrade accidentally shot him in the foot after which he would always chuckle. I doubt that my grandfather knew that he was my hero, but he was. Even though he is no longer with us, his legacy continues to live on.
I love you granddaddy.
Both our fathers, Harry Greissman (who died in 1997) and Kent P. Hollingsworth (who died in 1999), proudly served in the U.S. Army.
Their service was a decade apart.
Harry Greissman was from Brooklyn, New York and served as a lieutenant in the Seventy-eighth (Lighting) Division during World War II.
His letters to a Southern sweetheart Anne Hetrick describing the European Front and the horrors of that war have been immortalized in the book, LOVE STORIES OF WORLD WAR II, compiled by Larry King.
Kent Hollingsworth grew up in Scott County, Kentucky, and followed his older brothers’ example by enlisting in the Army. In 1952, he graduated from Armored Officer Candidate School at Fort Knox and served as a tank gunnery instructor, close combat instructor, trial judge advocate for regimental special courts martial, resigning from active reserves as a captain in 1962. For the next 23 years Hollingsworth served as editor of the Blood-Horse, a weekly magazine devoted to Thoroughbred racing and breeding, and his eloquent writing remains a model few can master.
Both men could light up a room with their wonderful humor and captivate us all with their spellbinding way of telling a story. Both married beautiful women who knew how to throw a great party. We miss them terribly, and yet we are comforted knowing that they were – and are – our heroes.
My tribute is to my grandfather. He fought in WW-I; he was a combat engineer, like me. His job was to infiltrate Axis lines to destroy bridges eliminating the opportunities to either evacuate or reenforce the front upon attack by the allies.
When he’d finished he messengered success to Command. He was ordered to hide in place. After the successful attacks to break the Axis, he was ordered to begin rebuilding those bridges.
He was decorated by King George V.
My Godfather, Bill Mellan, had an easy smile and a big laugh. He was instantly likeable, and was a loving father to his boys as well as a devoted husband to the love of his life, my Godmother Mary Jean.
He was also a veteran of the Battle of the Bulge, who had received the Bronze Star for bravery. I heard this last fact not from him but from my mother. Uncle Bill was much too kind and self-effacing to puff himself up with tales of military glory. I never heard him talk about his war experiences, and am under the impression that he kept the stories of his heroism to himself. That kind of quiet heroism is valuable and rare in a society where too often people cannot rush to a microphone fast enough to tout their latest insignificant accomplishment, and it just one reason why I admire him.
I am not a big fan of the propaganda about “the Greatest Generation,” which strikes me as too much Baby Boomer self-regard masquerading as filial piety, as if praising their parents now will make up for the awful things they said about them back in the 1960s. But I have nothing but respect and praise for those who did serve, and who, after doffing their uniforms, returned to build American society as loving husbands and fathers and hard working friends and neighbors. Those are true heroes. People like my Uncle Bill.
I consider myself extremely fortunate to have had two grandfathers that both served their country proudly. Both of them taught me so much about life and how to be a gentleman and a real man.
Our Memorial Day serves as a great reminder of the parts of their lives they sacrificed for our country. Even though they both served in active combat they survived to live long lives and carry the scars of battle through civilian life until their respective deaths.
Clyde and Nancy Adams
My dad’s father, Clyde Adams, was a career soldier in the U.S. Army. Throughout her career he was stationed all over the world: Germany, Panama, and here in the U.S. at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. He fought in two tours of duty in the Vietnam conflict and served as a quartermaster. He also spent time as an Army paratrooper. He often wondered aloud later in life why someone decided to jump out of a perfectly good airplane. My grandfather retired at an early age at the rank of Master Sergeant. He was offered a promotion to Sergeant Major, but was eager to enter retirement and spend more time with his family (his wife and son). He was awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. He passed away at the age of 65 on December 21, 1999.
My mom’s father, Leon Ferguson, served two tours of active combat during World War II. Instead of waiting for his name to be called during the draft he volunteered to join the U.S. Army. He fought in France, Germany, and Luxembourg specifically. I’m sure I’m leaving some out, but those of the particular ones that I can remember from conversations. He fought Nazis and he survived. He served one three year tour, was injured, and came home, only to go back for another three year tour. My grandfather volunteered at the age of 17, knowing he would enter into one of the violent wars in history, unbelievable. And yes, he was on the beach in Normandy. He obtained the rank of Private First Class and was awarded the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts. He passed away at the age of 83 on Feb 14, 2006.
My dad, who is 90, served in the army during WWII. He and my mom, who is also 90, are still active on the family farm.
My father was a Pearl Harbor survivor. (The picture at left is of me and my father; He stands with my mother on the right).
He joined the Navy in 1936 as an enlisted man he retired as a Commissioned Warrant Officer in 1957.
He was born in Winchester, Kentucky on April 2, 1917. Both of his brothers served in the military: my Uncle Cecil in the Navy, my uncle B. B. in the Army Air Corp.
He was on the USS McDounagh at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. My mother and I were in San Diego, I was 7 months old. My mother didn’t know if he was alive or dead for 10 days.