I have never lost a family member to war.
Both grandfathers (Dutch Freise and Bill Wright) were veterans of World War II. My dad's oldest brother, my Uncle Terry, served in Vietnam. My dad was in the Army as Vietnam drew to a close, but he was never sent overseas.
Going back further on my family tree, two great-grandfathers on my mother's side (George Feurer and William W. Freise) served in World War I. William was severely injured by mustard gas in France.
I have a great-great grandfather (William S. Sunderland) and two third great-grandfathers (George W. Wright and Milton B. Slaughter) on my dad's side who served the Union Army in the Civil War. George's older brother Enos was disabled in the Vicksburg campaign of 1863 and discharged from his infantry unit.
Also on my dad's side, my fifth great-grandfather fought in the War of 1812 (Ezekiel Emerson), and at least three sixth great-grandfathers (John Emerson, David Burlingame, and Eleazer Ballou) fought for the Patriot cause in the Revolutionary War. Another sixth great-grandfather, James Sinclair, was a Quaker opposed to participating in war, but he is recognized by the Daughters of the American Revolution as a Patriot because he offered cider and supplies to the revolutionaries.
These are just veterans I know about. I recently uncovered some evidence that a second great-grand uncle of mine (a brother of my great-great grandmother Laura S. Williams) may have died in the Spanish American War. An old picture making that assertion is the only purported proof I have of John Stanton Williams' service, so that claim remains unverified so far.
If Memorial Day is meant to commemorate those killed in the course of military service for the United States, then my thoughts and prayers for those veterans is of a general nature. But from a broader perspective, when I consider ordinary folks who answered the call to serve at times of crisis, I can fix my thoughts on my ancestors and relatives who put their lives on the line to defend the American ideal.
This nation is highly imperfect. And how could it be otherwise in this period in human history? But the idea of America has always been worth defending. I am proud that so many people I descend from felt the same way.
Happy Memorial Day to everyone.
If the rain ever lets up in Dallas-Fort Worth, I will celebrate the long weekend with a round or two of golf and perhaps a barbecue. But whatever I do, I will take a moment to pray. I will pray for all the families who have been affected by military conflict, for those veterans who gave up their lives in the line of duty, and for those ancestors of mine who willingly served in the military in times of crisis and conflict.
(Photo Below: A newspaper story about my Grandpa Bill getting his Navy "wings")