A couple years back I asked my kids if they knew why they had no school that November 11th. After a minute the older one answered “Veteran’s Day!”, and then I asked if she knew what that was about.
Not surprisingly, they didn’t, so I commemorated Veteran’s Day by informing my kids (as nonchalantly as possible ;-) why it was they didn’t have school that day. And that their grandma’s daddy was actually there at the event from which the holiday was carved; ie, he was a soldier of the American Expeditionary Force stationed on the Western Front at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 when a cease fire was declared adn Word War One ended. More on that is below, if you want to read it.
Before that I’d like to just skip to honorin the vets in my life.
So both my kids’ grandfathers served, (which includes my dad), both of my own grandfathers served, as did my two uncles on this side of the Atlantic, and one of their sons, my first cousin.
Each story of each of these guys is a fascinating one, and framed their lives in one way or another.
Some of the most moving words I’ve ever come across came to me in a correspondence with a relative some years back. That person had been intimately acquainted with life in the military, and conveyed to me with a slap-down honesty that even when military personnel and their families disagreed with or disapproved of the wars or actions with which they’d been charged — as the person in question and their family did of certain conflicts — that indeed because of the price that real people pay in the service, that supporting our troops in all and every way possible was not merely their (and our) duty, but that it’s the kind of responsibility akin to keeping a dog on a leash on a busy street, of feeding your newborn baby. Because just like in those cases, it’s life itself, on the line that they were talking about.
Lee H. Campbell (grandfather)
US Army 1st Division
WW I; Occupation of Germany – 1917-1920
George F. Campbell (uncle)
Philippines; Pacific Ocean; San Diego – 1965-1977
Warrington C. “Red” Cobb (uncle by marriage)
US Naval Academy, Annapolis
US Navy – 1960s
Robert P. Sheehan (father-in-law)
US Air Force
Kentucky; Northern California – 1957-1963
Background of how it came to be “Veteran’s Day” after being “Remembrance Day” and “Armistice Day” by telling how someone fairly close to them – their gramma’s daddy – had been “on site”, so to speak, for the Armistice that started the holiday, by telling them, in other words, the story of my mom’s dad — complete with pictures — of how he was this extremely funny guy who loved to joke around, whom everyone loved. Of how he grew up in the fields and farmland of Minnesota, same as their gramma, my mom, had. Of how he then became a soldier who was sent with so many others to a place that in his letters home he could only refer to as: “somewhere in France”. Of how he lived in the trenches, was part of a crew firing a big cannon, of how 20,000 people died in one day, and above all, of how he lived. And I told them of the signing of the agreement that led to the cease fire that occurred, and I read them the words he had written home in a letter about what it was like on the Western Front that fateful night at 11pm, November 11th, 1918.
I think the pictures and the fact that they know their gramma (my mom) really well, and that I emphasized that this person I was talking about was her DADDY, that she actually KNEW this guy, could remember being held by him, and maybe that I had WW I sounds playing in the background…anyway, I was able to actually hold their attention telling that story, reading the bits from his letters, and they were into it.
I also then charted out so they (and I!) could see just how many of our relatives were and are veterans. Only the one I just mentioned, my grandfather Lee H. Campbell participated in WW I and experienced the Armistice of 11/11/1918, but practically every male relative has served. Here, then, is a list of my relatives who’ve served. In the cases where I don’t have a picture of the individual in question, I’ve put pictures instead representative of their service (read the captions for specifics).
To those who have served, serve now and will serve.
God’s speed and Amen.