What started as a simple idea to honor some family members who I knew served in the military, or presently serve in the Military, - with a special Facebook status on Memorial Day - ended up being a much bigger, and in one instance, such a shocking - bittersweet journey.
I knew some family members had served - but wanted to dig a bit deeper and see who else had served that I may not know of. And then there's our new family by marriage - Tiffany's family. I wanted to see who in their family, our new family, had served so that I could properly thank them as well.
So the texting and e-mails began. Did you serve? Where? When? Do you know anyone else who did????
I was really surprised by the answers.
Shocked by one.
The picture that illustrates this blog - so very, very moving and says so very much. Hands that have weathered much, holding the picture that represents who he was, is, during his days of service to our country.
I look at that captivating picture and I think, "Do I even fully realize how all those men and women had, have, our freedoms cradled in the palm of their war weary hands?"
Do we now cradle them in our hands in thanks, in provision, for their service to us? Each person who serves on a battlefield -- holds someone's picture in their hands. In their hearts. Someone they love. Want to come home to. It just humbles me... How some never got to go back home to them. And how some who do get to go back home - are forever changed. And not always for the better.
I remember long ago being invited on the Senate floor at the Capitol in Austin. They were honoring a war hero and prisoner of war. I still can't remember his name, but I'll never forget his words:
"Freedom has a taste to those who fought for and died, that the protected will never know."
I've replayed that quote in my mind ever since I first heard it, and I'm still no closer to truly comprehending its full meaning. The closest I can ever come is in my own "Life with Autism" war that pales in comparison.
Thanking family who serve:
Beginning with my daughter-in-law Tiffany Conner and her family:
Tiffany's Grandpa, Mr. Tillison served in the Air Force stationed in Turkey. His brothers, Clifford, Franklin, and Donald made the United States Army their first career and were all in active combat. Donald in the Korean War. His brother-in-law Eugene Carter who also served his country, is pictured and quoted in the image that illustrates this post. Eugene and Clifford were part of the actual "Saving Private Ryan" story.
On my Mother's side of the family, my Grandfather could not serve because of eye stigmatism but did work for General Motors as a Foreman in support of the war effort. His brother, my Uncle Johnny Dotter, served in the United States Navy. My Grandmother had a brother, Mario Santini, who served in the United States Navy, then remained in the Navy Reserves. My Uncle, J. Dotter, served in the United States Army as a Sergeant. My Uncle, G. Watley served in the United States Navy. His son, J. Watley served in the United States Air Force.
My step-father Bob Buttram served in the United States Navy. His son, my brother, Rob Buttram, served in the United States Marines. Bob's brothers also served in the Military. Bill Buttram was a Master Sergeant in the United States Air Force and served three tours in Vietnam and Jimmy Buttram served in the United States Army and also served in Vietnam. Bob's nephew Jeff Buttram served in the United States Army, and nephew Chance Buttram currently serves in the National Guard.
On my husband's side of the family, his father Gary Guppy served in the Army National Guard. His brother R. Guppy served in the United States Army. His brother-in-law, V. Franks served in the Army National Guard and brother-in-law Richard Enlow served in the United States Army, Korean War. Gary's son, Tracy Guppy served for four years in the Air Force, and then the National Guard where he retired as a Captain after eighteen years of service there. His cousin, Chris Franks served as an officer in the United States Air Force.
Presently serving on my husband's side of the family is Tyler Christiansen, United States Army Staff Sergeant. He served in Iraq and is soon being deployed to serve in Afghanistan.
My son, Tadpole Gup currently serves in the United States Navy and is stationed in California.
One thing that truly bothered me in carrying out this simple thought of thanks - is that I knew almost nothing about all those listed who have served. I'm not sure if I've forgotten or if those stories were never told. How can I be this old and remember the story "Goodnight Moon" and not stories of family members who have served? Listing their name and branch of service, and for some, what war they served in, is just that, listing it. It tells nothing of each person's individual story. Stories I do not know, but hope to come to know more fully. Stories of personal and family sacrifice. Pride. Heroism.
Is it because at that time it was more duty than pride? Did people shun those who serve so badly that they didn't even want to share their stories about it? Were the memories so painful they didn't want them shared...
Perhaps to some being drafted or enlisting was just that - their duty. But to the rest of us, that should be so much more. It is our duty to make sure they know it is so much more...
On Tiffany's side of the family -- that they had relatives part of the actual "Saving Private Ryan" mission is more a best-seller than any "Cowboys and Indians" story! I hope to learn more of that story in days to come...
I don't know the reason that I never heard stories about my family members who served our country; and it saddens me that had it not been for my own son's decision to join the Navy, I most likely never would have had cause to even ask the questions I've recently asked of family members. I've watched "Saving Private Ryan" twice now -- and now know of men who were actually part of that.
All I can do is start from scratch by thanking each and every one of them who did serve - and hope that in the coming weeks and months I can learn more about their service to add to this story.
On this Memorial Day we honor those who served by remembering them. For me, this was the first Memorial Day that with some family members, I actually knew of their service. I'm so thankful I asked, so that I can share this with my own son. Better late than never. And I hope that when he has children one day, the first bedtime story they tell to them each night is one that begins, "For five generations now, we have had heroes in our family who have served our country....their names were......"
There's a line in a war movie where a young Grandson had found his Grandpa's chest of war memories and 'souvenirs' and was pleading with him to share his stories about them. When the Grandfather continued to refuse, the Grandson finally asked, "It's Memorial Day, what am I supposed to remember?"
And so the Grandfather started telling the stories...
In the beginning of this I shared that there was one shocking finding in doing this little spur-of-the-minute story. Ha ha, be careful what you search for, you may find it.... I have never known my biological father. All I knew was bits and pieces. One piece of information being where he lived and that he was in the Korean War. What we now call "PTSD" contributed to the divorce of him and my mother, and I guess left him with not ever wanting to be a part of my life. Just for the purpose of writing this, I did a quick search online with his name and branch of service, and came across an article about his military service. I asked my mother if that could be him, and she said it was....
In 1943 a 17 year-old boy dreamed of being the best. Too young for the Marines, he made a deal with the Navy to be assigned to the famed 2nd Division as a Navy Combat Corpsman beginning a journey that took him from the blood-soaked beaches of Saipan in 1944 to the bloody hills of Korea in 1952. As a corpsman with Marine Assault Group 53, 2nd Marine Division, Rudy not only treated Marines, but fought as one.
On July 7, 1944, history’s first Bonzai charge was made with 4,000 Japanese soldiers attacking the 2nd Div. The marines lost 10,000 men on Saipan. Rudy and his unit received the Presidential Unit Citation. By 1952 Rudy was a US Marine with the 1st Marine Division. On July 21, 1952, Rudy’s 1st Battalion, 1st Regiment, Anti-Tank Company engaged communist Chinese forces less than 60 miles from Seoul during which his unit was virtually destroyed before help could arrive. Wounded, Rudy continued firing with his 75mm gun.
For his actions, he received the DSM and Bronze Star.
I guess if there was anything at all for me to know about the father I never met, never knew, -- it would be that he was a war hero.
That certainly forgives a lot...
(And explains the warrior mom in me.)
On this Memorial Day --- HOOYAH to all in our family who have served and are presently serving.
And to my father, Marine Sergeant and Bronze Star recipient Rudy Baginski ---
~ ~ ~
The American Flag:
I don't remember where I heard this saying, but it went something like, "When you see a flag waving, it's not because of the wind. The flag waves by the last breath of soldiers who died or are dying on the battlefield..."
I have a vase on my dining room table. It's not filled with flowers, but with flags. Each time I turn on the ceiling fan and see those flags waving, I think of that quote.
And all those heroes who gave their all...
On this Memorial Day a very bittersweet thank you in memory of all who cause the American Flag to wave.
Those who gave their last breath on the battlefield in service to our country.
Click here to watch music video of American Flag Waving