Jillian here. Sorry this will be a long post! It’s November and since this is the month we remember our veterans—on the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour, I thought I’d share some tidbits about the veterans in my own family.
My Revolutionary War ancestor was Thomas Gresham (yes, my U.K. friends, I am related to Sir John and Sir Thomas Gresham—perhaps you’ve heard of them 😁 but that’s a story for another day). One of the later generation younger sons came to the colonies in 1690. By the time of the Revolution, we’d been here long enough to become attached to this place and my five- times great grandfather enlisted in Washington’s Army at the tender age of 15. He survived that long, freezing, brutal winter at Valley Forge (got sick and lost some wages as was too ill to fight for a bit) and also survived the war- thank goodness he did or you wouldn’t be reading this post! 🙂 When I think of what I was doing at age 15, my admiration grows for this young man and all the others who stood with him.
My great uncle, William Eugene Fowler died at the Battle of the Bulge and is buried in one of the American cemeteries in Belgium. He was an army sergeant and died while in battle, but not before saving five of his men and pulling them to safety. My dad, who was a tot at the time, as he was born in 1940, loved his Uncle Eugene. My great grandmother had a portrait of him in a massive oval frame with one of those bubble glass fronts. My dad would carry that thing around even though it was as tall as him. Thinking about the sacrifice Uncle Eugene made—saving others— without regard to his own safety, makes me proud to be related to such a brave man.
My dad enlisted in the Navy when he was still in high school and left for boot camp a few days after he graduated. He was already engaged to my mom. His mom and dad moved from their farm into town while he was gone and he didn’t know where they lived when he got back. And my grandmother had gotten rid of all his civilian clothes as she thought he’d always be in uniform and wouldn’t need them. 😁 —he served during the Vietnam era and volunteered to go over, but he wasn’t allowed as he was a weapons instructor and was needed stateside to train the young me who would go. He’s always felt a little like he cheated by staying in the USA. This is him below:
His younger brother, Robert, always wanted to be in the Air Force. He was a fun person and a real ladies man. I remember him well even though he died when I was almost six. He injured himself in boot camp and was told he was going to be shipped home as his back injury was so bad, he wouldn’t be able to serve. Despondent that he’d never have the life he’d always dreamed of, and with no loved ones near to help him, he took his own life. It was terrible and so sad. My dad was the one who had to tell his father as the Navy commander was contacted by the Air Force as they had the records that Dad was his brother. The commander called my dad into his office and told him. My poor dad had to make that terrible phone call to his father. My grandmother was never the same. Her bible, at her death, had so many notes in it where she was praying on paper for understanding of the death of her fourth son. I share this to say I don’t consider my uncle a coward. I consider the pressure he was under and the loss of his lifelong dream as the impetus for his actions. If only there had been the kinds of services we have now for counseling back then, I think he’d still be here.
And lastly, my nephew, Kyle ____ (his middle name is Eugene), who is very much like my Uncle Robert, charming, fun and a ladies man (they even look similar), is currently serving in the Air Force. It’s like we’ve come full circle with him and my uncle. Kyle is following Robert’s dream. Maybe not exactly the same exact dream, and we hope the ending isn’t the same, but I do find it comforting that Kyle found his own path, that included military service, and has been following it for more than 12 years now.
What about you? Any stories to share about loved ones who served in your branches of the armed forces?