Thursday, May 5, 2011

Real Sacrifices

May is

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, particularly since hearing about America's last surviving WWI veteran who recently died...

WASHINGTON, Feb. 28, 2011 – Frank Woodruff Buckles, the last surviving American World War I veteran, died yesterday at his West Virginia home. He was 110.  Sixteen-year-old Buckles enlisted in the Army on Aug. 14, 1917, after lying to several recruiters about his age.

Growing up in a military community, near Washington, DC, our family and friends were surrounded by all things military, and on more than one occassion, I worked at the Pentagon (my very first job was as a Personnel Clerk for the Department of the Army).  Military talk was part of our daily life ~ who was deploying where, who was coming home, funding of military work projects, Captain Project's Army Reserve schedule, etc.

Once we moved from DC to Atlanta, I began to feel a bit out of the military loop.  In Atlanta we knew very few military families.  Now in Florida, I don't come in contact with anyone in or associated with the military.  It's different.  I'd bet if I asked my friends and neighbors here if they knew about Military Appreciation Month, they'd say 'no.'

Since so few Americans serve in the military now, I understand why some don't often think about the service given by those who are called to duty.  Most Americans don't have a personal connection to anyone or anything military.  Certainly, this can be seen as a positive thing ~ surely I don't want my family and friends to march off to war (and I am grateful there is no longer a draft).  But they have...
*Captain Project (Retired Army Captain) who served for 20 years
*My son, who is currently serving in the Army, and who recently returned safely from Iraq
*My brother (Retired Army Colonel), who served as a helicopter pilot and was in the unit involved in "black hawk down" in Somalia
*My brother-in-law who flew S-1s during Dessert Shield
*Another brother-in-law who served in Afghastan
*A third brother-in-law who served in the Army and Navy, and who is now serving in Afghanistan as a civilian

I love the idea of Military Appreciation Month.  Holidays commemorating historical military events seem to have become little more than three-day weekends lacking focus from their original purpose.  I too am guilty of this, I mean, who doesn't love a long weekend to lounge around and throw a party?!  I think Military Appreciation Month is needed now, more than ever, to remind us of our military's sacrifices.

A dear friend of mine, Emily, was a young girl of 12 when WWII began.  Thinking about this blog post, I decided to ask her about how she and her family were affected by the war.  Here's our "interview."  I hope you find it as facsinating as I do.

RR:  Tell me about your family's war service.
Emily:  In early 1943, when he was 19, my brother was drafted (also referred to as conscription) while attending college.

(Note: Emily's brother Melvin served in the infantry when he was missing in action for five months before her family was notified that he was captured by the Nazis.)

RR:  How did your family learn of your brother's missing in action status?
Emily:  One evening in early Jan. 1945 my Mom and I were home alone; I was upstairs in my room doing homework and my  Dad and sister Beverly were working at the Shipyards.  Doorbell rang, a man, a civilian in his twenties said "I have a telegram."  I ran downstairs as my Mother, speechless, opened it reading "Missing in Action."  She fell on the couch just staring without seeing.  I read it and asked "Is my brother dead?"  He said, "No - there's a good chance that he will be found".  Then he told me that he had to deliver a telegram to his parents informing them that their son, his brother, was killed in action. We then both cried and hugged each other and when he was walking out I saw that he had a crippled leg which is why he wasn't in the service and yet chose one of the hardest jobs, wanting to do his part for the war.

RR: What can you tell me about Mel's capture?
Emily: Mel was in Stalag 4 from Dec. 17th 1944 until early May, 1945.  He'd  been sent out on patrol in the Ardennes forest with four other men to kill German snipers who were hiding in trees.  They were immediately surrounded, Mel was shot in his hip and beaten on his head with a gun butt when the German soldier demanded his watch (a personalized gift from my parents) as he hesitated in removing it.  They were put on a train and sent to the prison camp.  The Nazi prison guards did not follow most of the rules of the Geneva Convention - almost no food, no medical attention and all prisoners suffered from dysentary at the very least.  Many died but Mel was saved when an Army Red Cross Medical Group demanded entrance to survey the camp and treat the severely ill prisoners.  Mel looked up as a Red Cross worker greeted him by was Howie Levin, one of the kids he grew up with!  Howie treated his infected gun shot wound and saved his life.  Soon after the war ended, Mel was flown to a hospital in England and when well enough sailed back to the states.  He was then was sent to a V.A. hospital in Utica, N.Y. for two months, needing more treatment.  I went there by train, stayed for a week with a woman hospital worker who had befriended Mel, at her home.  Her husband was somewhere in the Pacific until V-J Day when the war ended on Aug. 15, 1945.

RR:  Who rescued Mel?
Emily:  The Russian army liberated Mel's camp. They invaded with fury and upon seeing the conditions of the prisoners, they machine-gunned all the prison guards.

RR:  Did you know many others who served?
Emily:  Every male between the ages of 18 and 35 had to register for the draft.  The draft was conducted by lottery; a huge bowl contained the names and those pulled reported for a physical.  Those who were deemed fit to serve were classified as One-A, those with slight physical problems were classified as One-A Limited.  My future husband Len was in the latter classification because of his poor eyesight.  Only the men in One-A were sent to the "front" to fight.  Men deemed unfit to fight were classified as 4-F (very few).

Every one of our friends, cousins and neighbors was in the service - Army, Navy, Marine Corps or Air Force.  Wherever we went, the only civilian men we saw were teens or "old" men.

 RR:  How did the media report on the war?
Emily:  Newspapers, radio and Movietone news, shown in theaters.  We would sit on the floor in our living room, gathered around the radio, listening to "Radio Free Europe," broadcast from London during the blitz.  We could hear the bombs going off.  Edward R. Murrow was one of the only "live" reporters; all other news got to us several days later.  Many brave correspondents lost their lives by trying to attain and report current information.

RR:  What sacrifices did your family make for the war effort?
Emily:  Every family had at least one loved one in the service.  President Roosevelt (FDR) in his daily radio speeches informed us that all home construction, automobile plants, civilian clothing manufacturing, etc. was shut down "for the duration."  There was a severe shortage of all food products and gasloline for our cars.  All families were given food and gas stamps to be used sparingly.  We were urged to plant "victory gardens" in our back yards, which I proudly did.  We were also encouraged to use our spending money to buy war bonds.

With all of the young men gone to war, young women and older men left their jobs to build ships, airplanes, guns and tanks.  My father shut down his accounting business and he and my sister (6 years older than I) both worked at Todd Shipyards in Brooklyn.  Also, my father put his new Buick in the garage on blocks for the duration and used the bus and subway to commute to work.

One of the phrases used each day by everone was, "This is for the war effort."  The only sacrifice anyone made was losing a loved one, killed or severely injured in combat.  Every aspect of civilian deprivation was considered an honor ~ we were helping our fighting men.

Wow!  Emily's response regarding sacrifice has left me with a giant lump in my throat ~ eloquintly spoken! 

(Emily & me, April 2011)

Thank you, sweet Emily, for sharing your memories.

If you'd like to learn more about National Military Appreciation Month, visit

My friends Tracy, Nancy, Betty Lou and Nicole are showing their appreciation for our military by quilting for Quilts of Valor.

(Tracy's completed stars for a Quilt of Valor quilt.  She's very talented!)

There are so many ways to honor our military and their families.  I'd love to hear what you do.  Please share your projects and ideas by leaving me a comment!

Your comment enters you for a chance to win this month's blog giveaway:



Melanie said...

Thanks, Cindy, for doing such a great job telling my family's story. I am proud to be named after my Uncle Mel who served so bravely and with such sacrifice in WW2.

LAUREN said...

She might enjoy reading a book by someone I went to high school with - Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas.

LaDonna and Diana said...

Thanks so much for sharing her story! My husband is in the Army, soon to be retired. "Every aspect of civilian deprivation was considered an honor ~ we were helping our fighting men." How I wish that was the prevailing attitude today!


The Summer Kitchen Girls said...

So true Cindy...there are so many people that have no connection to the military. We are fortunate of knowing quite a few in our area that are and were in the service! We so enjoyed all of Emily's question/answer session! We love hearing about this time. My mother-in-law always shares stories about this time. Once she told my kids how at night there was a strict lights-out at 9pm. One night around 10:30 there was a knock on their door and it was a neighbor who was keeping watch for the lights-out seems my m-i-l's sister was up in her bedroom with a flashlight reading! She got in trouble for the light it was casting! (My kids can't believe that one - lol!)

Thanks for the post...we are so thankful for the sacrifice of all of our soldiers!

Mrs Chronic-Shock said...

I grew up in a military family. My dad started off in the army for 10 years, then spent another 22 in the Air Force. He served in the Vietnam war. One brother spent over 20 years in the Air Force and my other brother did the same in the Navy; now his son is going into the Navy. My Uncles served and I expect a few more nephews to as well.

I learned a lot about fashion during the two World Wars in my Survey of Fashion class. It is amazing to see the difference in patriotism and willingness to do for your country. People nowadays would NEVER pay for war bonds. LOL

My US Flag will be flying all month on our little balcony on the 4th floor. I also want to go check out the new Air Force monument by the Pentagon this month!

Sizzle and Zoom said...

What tender, moving interview. Thank-you for sharing this with us. My family served in the military and my husband's family, too.

Paula Parrish said...

Hi Cindy,
Thanks for sharing the heartfelt interview with Emily. The interview gives me a better understanding of the sacrifices made by those that served and their families. My nephew Brandon is currently serving in the United States Air Force. Please include him in your prayers.
Make it a creative day. Smiles, Paula

Paula Parrish said...

Hello Cindy,

I received my new apron yesterday. When I took the package out of my mailbox, I ran up to the house to open it but in my excitement had it half way opened before I enter the door. When I pulled the apron out the colors spoke to me and said WOW perfect for you an earthy look but still fun. Needless to say; I had to try the apron on at that very moment. WTG Cindy the apron that you custom handmade me is just perfect. You are so talented and insightful.

Smiles, Paula

Donna said...

Thank you for sharing the story! My father served in WWII. I now have a nephew serving in Korea. He will be home in the US working soon!