Many of my family members have served in the Armed Forces at one time in their lives. Most of them volunteered to serve their country while at least one that I know personally – was drafted at a time when big swooping changes were occurring throughout the nation.
My great-grandfather, James Emory House, was a member of Company “H” of the 80th Regiment of Ohio Volunteers during the War between the States. He enlisted the day after Christmas in 1861 and was honorable discharged on May 27, 1865. Three and a half years of his 82 years were spent marching through the South. He was engaged in the famous Battle of Vicksburg and Sherman’s March to the Sea. At some point in his life, he shook hands with the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. During his time at Vicksburghe incurred a stomach illness that disabled him later in life. It is unknown what battle scars he suffered that weren’t visible on the outside but ones he possibly lived with in his nightmares for the rest of his life. To read his pension application papers, please go to Civil War Papers on my genealogy website.
My grandfather, Glen Roy Johnson, enlisted in 1918 – just a couple months after his first son was born. He went to Omaha, Nebraska for training as part of the Army Signal Corps. In July 1918, he sailed for France during World War I and the troops were inspected by Gen. John J. Pershing. Glen (or Granddad as we all knew him) was part of the 14th Balloon Squadron where observation balloons were taken 1-3 miles from the front lines to scout for army artillery. The men in the observation basket would telegraph information down the cables to the sentinel on the ground. It was extremely dangerous for an enemy shell could hit the balloon and cause the 38,000 cubic feet of hydrogen to become a raging inferno in an instant. He survived France and was discharged in 1932 as a Private but he won a reserve commission to Quartermaster Corps eight years earlier in 1924 due to his Civilian work at what used to be called Wilbur Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio (now Wright Patterson Air Force Base). When WWII began, he again went into active service with the Army Air Corps which later became the United States Air Force. He served through the Korean War and was released from active duty in the fall of 1953. He retired from the Air Force in 1958 as a Colonel. During his tenure, he spent three years in Weisbaden, Germany as a supply chief. (Photo above left is my grandfather, Glen R. Johnson.)
My father enlisted in the Army Air Corps in November 1939, a mere 5 months after graduating from high school. In August 1942 he was assigned to Reykjavik, Iceland for 15 months as an airplane mechanic for the air transport command. It was in Reykjavik when he first heard the news that Pearl Harbor had been attacked. He returned to his hometown of Coshocton, Ohio on December 1, 1943 as a Staff Sergeant. Between that time and 1953, he was stationed in Milwaukee and Great Falls, Montana. Then he was assigned to Japan for three years and after two years back in the states in Columbus, Ohio as a recruiter, he went back to Tachikawa AFB in Japan for another three years. While in Japan he was assigned to the 6400th Transportation Squadron. Upon returning to the states after the last tour, he was stationed at Tyndall AFB outside of Panama City, Florida where he retired from the Air Force after 20 years of military service. (Photo at left is my Dad in uniform.)
My uncle, Norman Amore, entered the Army in December 1942 and was shipped overseas in March 1944. In Germany his platoon leader was mortally wounded by enemy artillery fire, and Norman, calmly removed his wounded crew member to a station to be treated. For that brave act, he received the Bronze Star. (Photo at left is my Uncle Norman Amore receiving the Bronze Star.)
Three of my first cousins and a brother-in-law served in the Vietnam War. Luckily, all four men returned home. What they saw, I do not know.
I am thankful that my relatives all came back from Wars and military service alive and in one piece. These men served their nation honorably and bravely – never knowing what the next set of orders would send them. They are heroes by being ready to defend our freedoms. Freedoms that so many take for granted and so many in other countries struggle to attain. These brave men and women who put on a military uniform, a police uniform or a firefighter’s suit each and every day to keep us safe – whether it’s from evil half a world away, down the block or that out of control fire in our garage – they are heroes and if not for them, we may not know the freedoms and happiness we have today.
As Memorial Day approaches, please stop and thank every hero you see. Stop in at your local police or fire station to thank them. Send cards and letters to the men and women around the world stationed far away from loved ones to say thank you. Write a moving tribute about your hero. Place flowers and flags on the graves of those who served. Attend a parade, stand when the flag goes by and place your hand over your heart in honor of those who’ve helped keep us free. And never, ever forget