I was born on Memorial Day. A day we remember the dead.
If you met my grandfather, he may tell you if it wasn’t for my mom, he’d be one of the war dead. I’ve heard him say it a few times.
Grandfather Chet was drafted into the Korean War. His entire troop was killed hours after he was flown back to see my mom born in Illinois. My mom saved his life. I’ve heard my grandfather say it. He knows how lucky he is.
Good timing means I don’t have a cemetery plot to visit on Memorial Day, but so many do.
There are more than 7,500 American soldiers still “unaccounted for from the Korean War” as of June 2014. 33,651 were killed in battle. That’s just Korea.
Joseph Janicek fought in World War II. Grandpa Joe joined the Army and then told his brother, John, they would never take him. Basically – he dared his younger brother to join up.
“John, you’ll be 4F… they won’t take you!”
John joined the Marines, proving my grandfather wrong. Brothers, Joe and John were sent to WWII. They both came home, had children and grandchildren.
I only know the story of my grandfather’s sense of humor because John told his grandson (my second cousin), J.R. Janicek, later. J.R. followed his grandfather into the Marines.
My grandfathers didn’t talk about the wars.
I was in a newsroom in Detroit when the World Trade Center collapsed. At the beginning of the Iraq War, I spoke with a lot of mothers who’s children were leaving the country to head over. I watched men and women come back to their homes, hurt. Many were my age.
I started feeling guilty. I wasn’t doing my part. Unsure of how I felt about going to war, I knew how I felt about us being at war. It felt like almost every family knew or had someone involved somehow. I covered stories of hundreds of people gathering to create care packages and I helped create them. I spent hours on the phone fighting to get a mother’s money back when she was grossly overcharged for calls to her son serving overseas. I needed to do something more.
When I moved to Illinois, I found something more. I started volunteering for Illinois Patriot Education Fund. The non-profit organization raises money so veterans can continue their education. IPEF helps build better families and communities. Please watch this story and donate if you can. No story is the same. But, they all have a common need – and that is help from the rest of us. It’s one way we can thank them. Our veterans need us.
Thank you to Ryan Brockmeier. You are an incredible editor.
If you can donate to help Illinois veterans continue their education, please go to: http://www.illinoispatrioteducationfund.org.
Have your own family war stories? Share them here if you’d like. We all should brag a little about our families…