Memorial Day, 2019

As I think I have mentioned before to the best of my knowledge none of my ancestors has died in war. Four of my great-great-grandfathers took part in the Civil War, on the Union side. None of them were killed although I believe that two, both of whom died young, had their lives cut short by the privations they experienced during the war.

The last member of my family to have fought in war has been dead now for 17 years. That was my mother’s uncle, Ed. He was one of the lucky few to be called up for World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. He was 97 when he died, a long and, I hope, happy life.

Neither I, my siblings, their spouses, their children, or their children’s spouses have ever served in the military. I was called up for Vietnam but was ultimately rejected for service. We have all depended on the sacrifices of others. Isn’t that what Memorial Day is about? Recalling our dependence on the sacrifices of others?

A number of my high school classmates lost their lives during the Vietnam War. I don’t know the precise number but it was not insignificant in a class of 215.

I do not recall ever hearing any of my nephews or nieces speak of never having served or the sacrifices of those who did. I hope they do not take their good fortune for granted.

6 comments… add one
  • Gray Shambler Link

    Your nephews, like mine , are probably barely aware of military service since the draft is gone and it’s another occupational choice.
    I was aware of Vietnam since I was 13 or 14, I could hear Walter Cronkite read off the body counts on both sides every night at ten from my bed. I badly did not want to go. But the war was winding down and they didn’t ask me.
    I am grateful for those who did serve and I know that’s never enough.They also have my respect.
    Many people have said that that war was unnecessary, but we don’t know that. Our war was against an ideology, not the Vietnamese people, and we can’t quantify how much it drained strength from what was then a Soviet Communist juggernaut.

  • Gray Shambler Link

    Here’s a link to a large, (60 square miles) naval munitions facility that wasn’t there in Dec. &, 1941, but employed 10,000 Hastings Ne. residents by 1945. Driving by, it still looks as if a huge colony of termites has been at work for a long time. The production and storage vaults were earthen to disguise them from the air attack that never came. One of many examples of the immense national war effort.

  • steve Link

    I come from a large family. 13 aunts and uncles on one side, 14 on the other. 6 siblings. Several family died in WWII, one in Korea. No one died in Vietnam, but the uncle who taught me to shoot drank himself to death in about 3 years after Vietnam. But after Vietnam, I was the only person in our very large family in the military. I think that war changed everything. A niece joined the reserves about 4 years ago, but as far as I can tell she is the only to serve besides myself in all that time. In a family that tends to be extremely conservative, they love Alex Jones, Hannity, Breitbart, Levin, etc., and talks a lot about patriotism, I am still surprised about the unwillingness to serve compared with our historical norm. My only explanation is the unwillingness to trust the government in regards to war after the lies of Vietnam.


  • Jimbino Link

    While we’re at it, let’s not forget to celebrate the lives of those many conscientious objectors who served in prison and who have helped bring an end to some of our insane wars.

  • Gray Shambler Link

    “I think that war changed everything”
    It did. But I wonder how differently it may have turned out if the draft had ended in 1955, or 1960.
    My point is, the real possibility of being called up focused the attention of college aged people at that time and was the fuse that ignited anti-war protests.

  • Andy Link

    Obviously my wife and I served. My Dad was in WWII. My brother was the right age for Vietnam, but didn’t get called up. My grandfather was a Marine before and during WWI and was in the Merchant Marine in WWII. No one was in Korea.

    Prior to that, the only confirmed service in my paternal line was during the Civil War in a Mississippi regiment.

    As far as I know, none of my ancestors died in a war. Even my most distant ancestor that I can trace was captured after the battle of Worchester and sent to the US in one of Cromwell’s prison ships. So we’ve been very fortunate.

    But, with my wife and I both having served, we know many were were not so lucky. The cost of our foreign adventures is high, even for those who survive (I know a few people lost to PTSD-related suicide), which has done more than anything to change me from a fair-weather supporter of military interventions to a pretty strict non-interventionist.

    Who knows what my kids will choose. Right now they don’t seem too interested in military service, which is just fine with me.

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