Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Memorial Day Tribute Table

I'm doing a reprise of my Memorial Day post from last year.  I'll be linking this to Seasonal Sundays, hosted by the Tablescaper.

I am so very grateful to all of our military men and women serving around the world for this country and for all of us who call America home.  I also feel that I owe such a debt of gratitude to the members of our family who have served and sacrificed over the years.  Here's the post I wrote last year for Memorial Day, with the addition of one family member, Paul King.  I published this after Memorial Day last year.

Originally published June 2, 2011: 
I didn't do a Memorial Day table last week because we had a wedding anniversary, and I had already planned to do a table for that.  We did, however, recognize and celebrate Memorial Day on Sunday and Monday.  Our son was home from College on Sunday, so we grilled steaks for dinner and enjoyed his visit.  He is working on campus this summer and next school year, so he left to go back to school Sunday night.

It was so wonderful to see all the American flags displayed everywhere this past week.  With everything our nation has been through in the past ten years, seeing that flag flying proudly means more to me, personally, than it ever has.  We are truly a blessed nation.  I set a patriotic table this week because I enjoy doing tablescapes as a creative outlet for myself, and I enjoy sharing with other bloggers online who have similar interests.  But I also wanted to do a tribute to the members of our family who have served this nation in the armed forces.  This table and this post are in honor of, and in memory of, those who are still with us, and those who have passed on.

In Memory of Staff Sergeant James (Jim) Henry McGee

Jim was my maternal great-uncle whom I never knew, as he died 16 years before I was born.  My mother was only three years old when he was killed.  During those war years, his story was not so different from the stories of many, many other families.  But to our family, it is understandably, unique and very personal.  Jim was the oldest of three sons, all of whom signed up for military service in World War II.  My maternal grandfather was the youngest of the sons.  He stayed stateside at Fort Warren, Wyoming, and was eventually discharged due to a medical condition.  The middle brother, Richard, served in France, but of the three, Jim was the one who never made it home.  He was killed in action near Anzio, Italy.  The letter his commanding officer sent to his family stated he was killed when the vehicle in which he was riding ran over an enemy mine.  He was buried in an American military cemetery in Italy.

Jim was one of the three first Americans to enter the Kasserine Pass in North Africa, and was awarded the Silver Star and the Shoulder Cord for conspicuous bravery in action there.  But at age 25, all of his dreams and plans for the future were abruptly ended.  I often think of all the things he never got to do in life; what good experiences might he have missed out on?  I was always told growing up that he was engaged to be married to a young woman in our community, but he never got the opportunity to marry and have a family.  But because of him, and many others just like him, we have had that opportunity; and we have been able to enjoy so many of the things life offers in a country that remains free because of the sacrifice of so many.  I'm sure that having a son of my own makes me appreciate his ultimate sacrifice even more.  Jim's name is on the Roll of Honor on the Battleship North Carolina in Wilmington, and every time we visit the battleship, I make a point to pay my respects to him at this special memorial.

      In Memory of Richard Lee McGee

My great uncle Richard served honorably in the U.S. Army during World War II, seeing action in northern France, Belgium, and northern Luxembourg, and with the third army under General George Patton in the Rhineland.  For his services he received the combat infantryman's badge, the Purple Heart, and two Bronze Stars.  After the war was over, he was restless, and could never seem to settle back in to the community where he grew up.  He moved around, but returned home periodically for visits.  He died in a VA hospital in Florida, and was buried at Biloxi National Cemetery in Biloxi, Mississippi. 

Our Uncle Steve in Vietnam 

My husband's uncle Steve served in the U.S. Navy in the Vietnam War.  He served on a river patrol boat in South Vietnam, where he saw active combat.  After the war, he came back home to finish his college degree, then went on to teach school and get married.  He has led a very full life.  He is such a good-hearted person, with a sense of humor always at the ready.  He took a class in Switzerland learning to repair clocks and watches, which he has done for many years now.  He also hikes, cycles, is an avid reader, and is very active in his church.  He has visited places all over the world, and is always interested in learning something new.  I believe he learned in Vietnam just how precious (and uncertain) life really is.  He has an eternally youthful spirit and we really enjoy spending time with him.

Steve set up a website online dedicated to the men who served in his river division in Vietnam, and to help them contact one another and re-connect.  They all met some years ago for a re-union.  I was really touched by his words on the Home Page of this website..."I can't really say how much the Vietnam experience changed my life, but as I get older I realize how precious are the people with whom I had the privilege to serve.  God bless every individual who heard the call to duty and served in Vietnam and especially to the ones who did not return." 

Paul King

Paul is a relative of my father, and he currently lives in Arkansas in the town where my paternal grandfather was born and grew up.  Paul joined the U.S. Marine Corps. after he graduated from high school in 1944.  He first saw action in Iwo Jima in February 1945; he later fought in the battle of Okinawa.  Paul was on a ship alongside the Battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay in September 1945 and witnessed the official Japanese surrender.    

        Our Great-Uncle James

James is my paternal great-uncle, and he served in three of our nation's wars -- WWII, Korea, and Vietnam.  He is 84 years old, and today is still physically active and works in a fishing and tackle shop in the Florida coastal town where he lives.  He, too, has seen much of the world, and he is a kind and lovable person.  He is one of our very favorites of my Dad's family members.  Above is a picture taken in 2003 of James (on the left) with my Dad some years ago.

Other members of our family who were in the military but did not serve in a major conflict or war are my Uncle Johnny and my husband's father, Bill.  To all these people, we owe a great debt of thanks for serving in our nation's armed forces.  And lest we forget, there are many thousands of unknown soldiers buried in military cemeteries around the world.  They belonged to families once too and left an empty chair at someone's table.  I believe they belong to all of us now, because they made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

Thank you for your visit, and I hope you have a good Memorial Day weekend.

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