While Memorial Day weekend kicks off the summer season, it also calls us to remember the sacrifices of those who have served and defended our nation. Graves will be visited and decorated, families will gather for picnics and barbecues, stories will be told and new memories will be made.
One special way to recognize veterans in your family is to list them on the Secretary of State’s Honor a Veteran webpage. The program, started on Memorial weekend last year by Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz, honors the sacrifices that veterans have made throughout history to protect our freedoms and our sacred right to vote. Tributes can be made to honor both veterans and active-duty service members.
I logged on in memory of my father who served from 1943 through 1957. He was in his senior year of high school at Rosedale High School in Kansas City, Kansas when Pearl Harbor was bombed December 7, 1941. Six months after graduating from high school he married my mother and a few weeks later entered the Army Air Corps. He spent the next two-and-half years in India working with the British to keep the trains working in order to supply troops working to open the Burma Trail.
After his return in 1945, he earned the first college degree in his family with the help of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 – more commonly known as the G.I. Bill. During that time he remained in the reserves and was involved with Washburn’s R.O.T.C. program. Upon graduation, he was recalled and sent to Japan where he served with the USAF stationed at Johnson Air Base in Tachikawa, Japan (where I was born) which was the headquarters for the 41st Air Division and the 3rd Bombardment Wing.
While in Japan, my dad was assigned to teach courses in world political geography to both former Japanese military officers and to U.S. military personal. During my youth, he paid close attention to the news about the war in Vietnam and would frequently school me on geopolitics with the aid of several globes in our home, one of which was illuminated. After one of his teachings, I would sit and spin the globe and study the exotic places where his service had taken him – Tunis, the Suez Canal, Bombay Calcutta, and Japan. I insisted on having the illuminated globe as a nightlight in my room because I could sneak out of bed to look at all the places he taught me about and the places where I wanted to travel to someday. During my high school days as we argued politics his passion for this country helped me to understand what he had fought for. My dad had worked as a reporter and photographer before, between and during his years of service. I am fortunate to have an amazing collection of photographs and even old movie films of the places he had seen through the lens of his camera while in the military. I often pull those pictures and movies out over Memorial Day to remember him.
While my father’s years of service are the most immediate link I have to a veteran, I also stand in awe of so many ancestors who have sacrificed to protect our nation and the rights we enjoy as Americans. Through extensive genealogical work on both my husband’s and my family trees, I can count dozens of great grandfathers and great uncles as veterans of World War I and World War II, the Spanish American War, the Civil War, the War of 1812, the American Revolutionary War as well as some who served in pre-revolutionary colonial wars, including the Pequot and French-Indian War. Although none of my female relatives are military veterans, behind all those great men are great mothers, wives, sisters and daughters who have shared in their sacrifice in building this great nation.
If you are looking for a unique way to pay your respects to a veteran this Memorial Day, check out the Secretary of State’s Honor a Veteran webpage and join me in leaving a special message.
More Photos: A soldier’s images of WWII in India
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