Genealogists: Have a pleasant Veterans’ Day, Armistice’s Day, and if you are somewhere besides the States, a pleasant Remembrance Day.
One thing that we can say as genealogists, family historians and ancestry fans is that the motto of this day “Lest We Forget” is one that may bear repeating to many, but rings true to us every day we look at our family trees, open our databases, and work to better weave the tapestries of our lives and the lives of our ancestors.
In looking at my personal family tree I find that there are an astounding 17 family members who lost their lives at war. Each of these family members died between 1854 and 1971. Our family’s Wall of Honor reads as follows: Sydney James Abbott, George Thomas Brendon, John Trefusis Carpenter, Everett Emery Dillon, William Henry Evenden, James Ham, Herbert Winsloe Patton, William Morrish Phillipps, Walter Gerhard Recker, Jack Rickard, Samuel Rowe, Norman James Sloan, Edward A. Thomas, Paul Dean Urquhart, Joseph J. Vacha, Antonio Wedge, and Robert Enoch Williams.
We are blessed in my family that the number of veterans in our family tree are too numerous to list here in full. There are dozens and dozens and I thank each and every one of them for their service, and say a very special prayer today and every day for those seventeen above who gave the full measure in their sacrifice.
My father was very proud of his service to America. He was a first Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, earned a Bronze Star, and five campaign medals. As a first Lieutenant he was often front line, front and center and while he was proud of his service he rarely spoke in detail of what he experienced. Then thankfully one day on a beach in Florida that changed.
It was a beautiful, Florida night I announced that I was going to take a walk on the beach. My father piped up and said he would join me (a very rare occurrence) if our children would join us. I corralled our children and off we went on a lovely walk on the beach. In the solitude of the darkness, stars spread above us and the only sound the gentle lapping of the waves on the shore, my father announced that he wanted us all to know what it was that he experienced and went through during World War II.
My dad then proceeded to take us with him from Omaha Beach in Normandy to his certainty that he would be killed if he had to be part of an invasion of Japan. He spoke of his time as a graves registration officer and the work he and his team had to do in the aftermath of the D-Day invasion, a duty he referred to as the most gruesome work he had ever done. He spoke of his amazing efforts in rescuing a fellow officer, who happened to be Jewish, and had been captured. He captured us with his memories of the amazing and the mundane, from desperation of the Battle of the Bulge to his earning some extra money as the Division’s barber.
He broke down when he related that he was a Liberator of Langenstein Concentration Camp. He was the group of the first American soldiers who opened the gates at Langenstein and on that night in the quite of a Florida beach he said he wanted to insure that we would know, as best we could, the horrors that he encountered in that ‘hell on earth’.
I am especially blessed that my father finally related his stories since his military service files were destroyed in the 1973 fire at the National Archives in St. Louis. (Yes, I have heard the cruel stories from some in genealogy who maintain the fire is simply used as a ‘convenient excuse by staff who are too lazy to look for a file’ to which I call BS! I have received files that were saved and have the burn marks to prove it. I have also been told of others, such as my father’s, which are gone after they searched not once, but three times.)
We genealogists and family historians are in the ‘business’ of remembering so this Day of Remembrance rings deep and solemn in each of us I am sure. I tried on numerous occasions after that night on the beach to convince my dad to retell those stories at a time and place that I could record them. I love oral histories and would have relished having these memories related by my father on tape, but that was not to be. Each time I asked he countered that he had already told his story and doing so again was not going to happen.
It has now been five years since my father passed away and while I have written down his stories, I still wish he would have taped them. Oh how I miss him!
Nov 11 ….. at 11:00 am
So today, please thank a veteran if they are with you, say a prayer if they are not, hold all active duty military personnel in special prayers of thanks and safety.
This day is special and is especially meaningful at 11:00.
So fly your flag and remember, please, to stop at 11:00 am where ever you are and join in the nationwide two minutes of silence …. for all our Veterans.
Have a blessed day!