God Bless America and Her Defenders
Today is Veteran's Day. The picture pays tribute to the United States and those who have sacrificed while serving her. The picture includes the grave of an unknown soldier that is meant to represent all those who have sacrificed their lives, their time, their health, and their innocence, to protect our nation.
My grandfather is one such veteran. Leaving his pregnant wife behind, he shipped off to the European Theater in World War II. Away for years serving in the army artillery corp, he served in North Africa, Italy (at Anzio), the invasion of southern France, and the drive on Germany. He picked up a bad case of malaria and some German souveneirs, but returned intact to meet his daughter (my mom) who did not recognize him at first having only seen him in pictures. But his ordeal was not over. Like so many of his generation, when communist North Korean forces invaded the defenseless South, he was recalled to duty and spent another year fighting in literally chilling conditions. Grandad does not bring up in conversation the wars he found himself fighting, but I have dragged some of the information out of him on a couple of occasions. Since serving his country, he has served his family well and now is enjoying a well-deserved retirement.
My uncle C.W. was a young farm boy whose brothers and friends had gone off to war. As he got old enough he joined them, leaving his young wife behind. He served on an anti-aircraft battery, seeing friends killed in front of and behind him, of an aircraft carrier at the height of the Japanese kamikaze attacks. He too returned to his wife and lived a good life, dying only last year.
My uncle Eddie was already in the navy when World War II began. In fact, he was at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and survived the Japanese sneak attack on that infamous day. Uncle Eddie continued to serve in the navy through the long march back across the Pacific, including serving in the brutal battle of attrition that was the Gaudalcanal Campaign. So many ships, both U.S. and Japanese, were sunk around that Island that they call the surrounding sea "Ironbottom Sound." He too returned and lived a good life and now rests at a national cemetery in Houston.
My uncle Ben was already in the U.S. Armed Forces when World War II started as well. In the Army, he served throughout the entire war. I am still trying to track down more information on his service, but we believe he fought in the infantry in the European Theater.
My wife's father, Harvey, also served his country. He joined the Navy during the Korean War, an ironic choice for a young man who had lived his entire life in North Dakota. He shipped out to San Diego and was placed on a destroyer that became the first naval vessel to receive hazard pay for their efforts dueling with North Korean shore batteries and facing threats from North Korean aircraft. After his time in the Navy, Harvey settled down in the San Diego area, married my mother-in-law, and worked for the defense department and in the defense industry until his retirement (which he enjoys very much).
My great grandfathers served their states, though not their country, in the War Between the States. One served in the Texas Cavalary and may have fought at Sabine Pass. The other served in the Arkansas Infantry and passed along chilling stories of suffering and privation, including seeing his troop (and himself) marching in the harsh winter without shoes, their feet so swollen and cracked that they left a bloody trail of footprints in the formerly pristine snow.
The earliest direct ancestor that I know of who served the United States was Colonel Joseph Hardin (check out his homepage here) who served in various Indian campaigns and the Revolutionary War. He was a minuteman in North Carolina and served in the Cherokee Expedition. He also served in the battles of Ramseur's Mill and the more famous King's Mountain in our War for Independence. Colonel Hardin's home and lands were burned by Tories so he would have been left with nothing after the War had he not been awarded a land grant in Tennesee. So succesful was his move to Tennesse that he established Hardin County (so named today, you can read the history of Hardin County here), served in various levels of government, and left behind a vibrant family. All this came at a cost, as he lost three of his sons to Indians.
One of Colonel Hardin's grandsons was William Barnett Hardin. He moved to Texas in 1826 and joined the Texas Army when the Texas Revolution began. William Hardin participtaed in the bitter house-to-house fighting of the Seige of Bexar (San Antonio). Wounded in that battle, William Hardin left the army after Texas gained its independence. He thereafter served in various local government positions and helped establish a Methodist church. To his great credit, he worked diligently to protect the rights of Texas Indians.
I am proud of my Granddad, my uncles, my great grandfathers, my father-in-law, and of my forebearer Colonel Hardin and his family. And today we should all be proud of and grateful to our veterans. They have served our country and in doing so have served each of us, providing us with peace, security, inspiration and freedom. To all of those who have served in defense of this country, thank you. In the words of the Apostle John, "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends."
Finally, let us pray for the safety and success of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines who are serving in harm's way in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in other places of which we are unaware.