Monday, November 11, 2013

Thank You For Your Service

As a military veteran, I can't tell you how many times people have said to me "thank you for your service". There has only been one time when hearing that did not make me smile. I was coming home from being deployed and this lady stops me and says thank you for your service.  She then proceeded to tell me with tears in her eyes that she lost her 19 year old daughter in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.  It took everything I had not to cry with her but I felt her pain and knew my tears would make it worse.  I hugged her and told her she should be proud that her daughter joined the military to keep our country safe.  It takes a brave and courageous person to make that decision.  I thanked her for her daughter's service and the sacrifice she made for our country.  I also thanked her for supporting her daughter because I know what it's like when you're at basic training or away from home the only thing that keeps you going is your family.  She let out a breath, patted my arm, said thank you and then walked away.  I still tear up when I think about how much pain she was in.  So many parents, spouses, friends and children have lost someone during our conflicts; and it never gets easy.  

I will admit that it took me being out of the military to fully understand what it means to a veteran.  We as a country honor our vets on November 11th every year, many places offer military discounts to veterans, active duty members as well as their family.   A lot of people may not know the full sacrifices that each member as well as their family makes, some give their lives for our country.  People in the military don't ask for much, they proudly serve their country with honor. 

I can say that not every place is a good place to be stationed, the pay isn't the greatest (many families struggle) but the camaraderie amongst members cannot be matched.  I was lucky to meet a lot of people that had I not joined the Air Force, I would never have met.  I wouldn't change that for anything in the world.

I found out that my family has a few veterans.  I am so proud of them for choosing to serve their country, especially during the times when they may not have been treated fairly.  I honor their service and appreciate their sacrifices as well as those made by their family.   I've come across a few during my research and will add them to my list as I find them.  

Dad at 17

My dad and I
My paternal grandfather Felix Parker served in WWI and registered for WWII (I am still verifying this war). He was a sergeant in Company E of the 812th Pioneer Infantry. The 812th Infantry was one of 16 African-American regiments that made up the Black US Army bands.  They entertained servicemen and civilians in Europe (except 810 and 812 they remained stateside) America with "traditional military marches and concert band fare, but also with minstrel shows and revues, and with the latest flavor of ragtime music, which they called jazz.   These non-combatant black troops worked as stevedores, dug trenches, graves, and latrines, and built hospitals, roads, bridges, and railroad lines" (Lefferts, 2012). 
Source Information: Lefferts, Peter M., "Black US Army Bands and Their Bandmasters in World War I" (2012). Faculty Publications: School of Music. Paper 25.

Felix Parker WWI Registration Card
Source information: U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 (database on-line). Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2005

I found this draft card is interesting because it lists a wife and 6 year old child.  I believe this is my grandmother Edna and her mother but I haven't been able to verify it yet.

WWII Registration Card
Source Information. U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942 (database on-line). Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010
When I look at his WWII registration card, I wondered what made him want to serve again at 54 years old. Was it for a better life for his family or a desire to service his country?  I think it was to serve his country and I am so proud of him.  I wish I knew him but I know through my father and my mother I will get to know him.

My paternal 3rd great grandfather Robert Moses Hafford was born 1845 in Warren, Kentucky.  He volunteered on 26 June 1864 to serve with the Union in the Civil War.  He served in the 1st United States Colored Heavy Artillery at 19 years of age. 

Robert Hafford Service Record
Source Information: U.S., Colored Troops Military Service Records, 1881-1865 (database on-line). Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2007.

Robert and Felix (and my father) are just a few of my ancestors who volunteered to serve their country.  I will add more later.  

Happy Veterans Day!  Take the time to thank our military veterans, active duty members and their families for their service and dedication to our country.