In World War II, two uncles on my mother's side of the family (both of her brothers), and three uncles on my father's side of the family served.
D-Day, the Battle of the Bulge, and the Occupation of Japan were the world-changing events in which my relatives played a one-man role.
I came late to a family with many child-less couples, so no relative I personally knew served in the Vietnam War, the Cold War, Grenada and any of the military actions during the Reagan years, or the Liberation of Kuwait (the First Gulf War).
A cousin spent time in Iraq as a psychologist during this Second Gulf War. Gordon has a cousin who was a Navy Seal in Afghanistan.
But before Korea and WWII, there was hardly a war or military action that did not have representatives of our family. The more genealogy we research, the more veterans we discover.
I am immensely proud of that.
Gordon has just as many, if not more veterans in his family lines. I'm still learning about them as Gordon shares his genealogy research with me.
For the most part, The Lord has seen fit to protect the men of our family in war and bring them back home.
My grandfather Clyde Hamer almost died from the Influenza Pandemic in WWI. He and others in his group fought the deadly virus by burrowing down in the hay in a barn in France to stay warm. A French farm woman gave him kerosene.. for medicine. It was the only available medicine.
The War Between the States saw almost all the men of age in all my family lines go to war.
In one of Gordon's lines, his Great-great-great grandfather William Henderson Fikes, signed up at age 56 to fight for the Confederacy, along with his two sons from the Buckley's Store Community, Lauderdale County, Mississippi.
Can you imagine signing up to go to war at the age of 56? That tough ole fella served for half a year before a hernia forced him to go home with an honorable medical discharge. Amazing determination.
In the War of 1812, our ancestor Durham Kelly signed up in Tennessee to fight with Andrew Jackson against the British. He was paid $8 per month, and his horse was paid $12 per month! Durham Kelly fought with Ole Hickory all the way to New Orleans and the end of the war.
We have chuckled for years that the horse was more valuable than the ancestor.
In America's War for Independence from England, the American Revolution, we have found some 20 ancestors who fought for Independence. Of those, my mother and I have proved our lineage to 10 of these men (that means we have done the exhaustive paperwork, including all the paper trail of proof.)
So far, we have not found any ancestors in any of our lines who remained loyal to the Crown.
So today, I share with you how we honor our ancestors who are buried in Montgomery County and the surrounding counties. These photos were taken right before Christmas when we put out red (silk) roses on graves that would not otherwise be marked. The ancestors have been gone too long to have any living next of kin.
From the little country church in Scroggins, Texas, where four generations of Gordon's family is buried, I discovered a fabulous way to put flowers at a grave that would withstand wind, mowers, etc.
Those smart Texas folks had figured out that driving a one-foot piece of PVC pipe into the ground and then stabbing the flowers directly into the compressed soil inside that PVC pipe is wonderfully weather proof.
Since we have been using that method back here in Mississippi, our flowers have survived tornado weather, flash floods, and even Hurricane Katrina when she passed over the farm.
The flowers we had in pots turned over, were sucked out of the pots, and at times have been scattered around the cemetery. So far, this PVC method is really working great.
Now why is that such a big deal? Well, when we were filling clay pots or plastic pots with sand in which to stick the flowers, we had to go to three cemeteries after each windy storm to put the flowers back in place at 14 graves.
With the PVC method, we have been able to put silk flowers at some 40 family grave sites in cemeteries in several counties. The silk flowers will last in this Mississippi weather for about half a year.
We put out red for Christmas, Valentine and Mother's Day. Then we try to put something yellow or orangy in the early summer that will be appropriate through Thanksgiving. When we paid our respects to fewer ancestors, we changed the flowers three times a year.
So, what does it matter if Thomas A. Dunn, who was born in 1774 and Nancy Ward Dunn, who was born in 1776, have flowers on their graves? They are buried in the small Dunn-O'Neal Cemetery in the middle of a cattle pasture off in north-east Montgomery County,
They are my great-great-great-great grandparents on our Dunn line. Four Greats. It just awes me that they were born at the time our country was being conceived and born. Standing at their grave site is deeply, deeply moving, and I can't quite put it into words.
We are conservative protestants, Baptists. We believe the graves of our ancestors hold only the bones or ashes of the people who died. We don't worship our ancestors. Our ancestors are all, hopefully, waiting for us in Heaven.
I look hard throughout the year to find silk flower bargains so that we can mark these 40-something graves with appropriate dignity. Mama, Unc, Gordon and I all participated in putting out the new silk flowers before Christmas. In other words, it is a family activity, and it has been a family activity for as long as I can remember.
When we all stepped back from putting flowers on the graves in these photos in the Oakwood Cemetery in Winona, MS, I felt such deep pride.
There was pride in my family, in their accomplishments and sacrifices that played a part in the modern life that Gordon and I enjoy in America. I feel a similar pride when we put flowers on the Fikes graves in Jasper County near Meridian, Mississippi.
I feel pride in the sense of family responsibility that Mama and Daddy and Unc passed on to me. They had learned from their parents and grandparents. Generations teaching the next generation by spoken word and especially by example.
In 1991, I traveled with the Alabama National Guard to report on their participation in what turned out to be the last REFORGER military training exercise in Germany. I fell head-over-heels in love with Bavaria during that trip (another topic for another day).
What wowed me on that trip was a particular Saturday in cold, dreary January with precipitation that could not decide whether to be rain or sleet or snow. Townspeople were in the cemetery, sweeping up leaves, cleaning around the graves, showing respect.
I don't know if it was a "clean up day" called by the Town Council or whether it was something the local residents did on a regular basis, but it was deeply moving to me.
We may not have had a big family gathering today on Memorial Day. We don't have any close relatives who have served, whom we can personally thank. We were not able to participate in any community ceremony of placing a wreath at the monuments of past wars.
In our own quiet way, today we have thought about and even talked about those in our family who fought, were injured, one or two who died in war, and their women who stayed at home and kept the respective farms running.
This blog allows me the forum to thank all of our service men and women who are protecting this country from posts around the world. Thank you also to their family members who are separated from their loved ones and have sacrificed in other ways to protect our United States.
May God continue to protect us from those who would do us harm.
The last photo: Someone (not us) had put identical flowers on the Unknown Confederate graves in Oakwood Cemetery. I would like to know who to thank for this gesture of respect to solders from 148 years ago.