I humbly thank and I am thankful for -
Scott Sowieja - my own son-in-law. He served in the US Marine Corps in Iraq. Our lives are much better for him and for his service. Our family knew 36 hours of hell as communications were lost with him during an intense battle in Ramadi. We experienced a small slice of what our mothers and grandmothers before us went through. I remember sitting in a drive through at Wendy's, my phone ringing and hearing "Hi Mom" All I could say was "Oh my God!" over and over. Until I made the most brilliant of remark..."What do you need?" He said a "massage" and I realized that I could do nothing from literally a half a world away, but I knew that if I could get on a plane with my massage table right then and there, I would have. Scott came home on my birthday that year. I count that as one of the best birthday presents I have ever received. We love you Scott.
Mike Chapman - my Uncle. He enlisted in the US Army in 1934. He fought in WW 2 and Korea. Retiring in the late 1960's/early 1970's. A quiet man, he never spoke much about his service but a newspaper clipping states that he served in the Rhine campaign, receiving several decorations for his brave service. He passed away in 2009. He is one of my hero's having braved through several bouts of recurrent cancer and even becoming a century (100 mile) bike rider when in his 70's. He last tried to ride the Hotter -n-Hell in Wichita Falls, Texas, in 2005. He wasn't able to make it far due to his declining health. But he and I were able to make the start of the ride with 14,000 of our closest friends. (The Hotter-n-Hell is held the last weekend in August each year. Hence the name of the ride. They have rides from 6 mile family rides to 100 miles of in your face heat and humidity. Take your pick!)
Vollie Chapman - my Uncle and brother of Mike. He joined the Navy, and served in the Pacific Theater during WW 2. Vollie joined the military 12 December 1942 and died on 19 April 1945 during the Battle of Okinawa, just 6 days before Adolph Hitler and Eva Braun died via suicide in a German bunker. He was buried in Washington State in 1949. I have not figured out why there was a 4 year delay, but I thank the Veterans of Foreign Wars for assisting Sena, Vollies' wife, in bringing him home.
Roy G. Swanson - my maternal Grandfather. He was the son of Swedish immigrants, who enlisted for service in the Army during WW 1. I know that he was sent home from Europe while in France, but not much else (yet). He came home and led the quiet life of a farmer in Illinois, even hosting German POW's on his farm during the next World War. I met my Grandfather once. He was a gentle soul. I have a picture of my Grandfather in his Army uniform. I think about what he saw during his life, 2 World Wars, the "Spanish Flu" pandemic, the Great Depression, the Korean conflict and part of the Vietnam war, the assignation of both JFK. So much history in one lifetime.
Jesse Van Chapman - my paternal Grandfather. He enlisted for the 1st World War. There is no record of him serving, but he enlisted for service with small children at home. My Grandparents were married in 1910.
Valentine Martin - my G-G-Grandfather. He entered as a 2nd Lt. during the Civil War. He served for a short time in Company H, 41st Infantry, Georgia, CSA, also known as the "Wool Hat Boys". He was mustered out several months later. I have tried to find out why he only served from March to July, 1862. A very kind Professor of History at the University of Georgia has told me that he figures that while my ancestor could read and write, perhaps not to the level needed for an officer.
Captain Charles Weatherford - Captain Weatherford married one of my maternal G-G-Aunts, Martha Virginia Staples. It is the brother of Martha, Daniel Webster Staples (my great-grandfather) who married the daughter of Valentine Martin, Nannie Elizabeth Martin (my great-grandmother). The Captain also served in the Confederate Army. He was part of the Alabama Calvary known as "Barlow's Boys". Captain Weatherford and my Aunt are both buried in Monroe County, Alabama. Captain Weatherford's grandfather was known as "Red Eagle". He played an intregal part of the massacre at Fort Mims in 1813 which ironically had ties to Martha Staples' family as several family members were killed in that massacre. It also played a role in the rise of a certain military man and future President of the United States, Andrew Jackson.
Thomas Martin, Sr. - grandfather of Valentine Martin. Thomas served in the Revolutionary War as a scout in the Horse Militia. The Martin farm skirted the boarder of North and South Carolina. Thomas joined the military after a battle where "mountain men" had to march south after defeat by Lord Cornwallis. That march led these men close to the William Martin farm during the fall of the year. Thomas married Sabra Wilkie several months prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence i 1776.
This is by no means a complete list of the service people in my family. Only the ones that I have found through my research at Ancestry.com and the history passed down to me by family members. I am still researching my family history and I am proud of what I have uncovered.
So from my family to yours, Happy 4th of July! I hope you have a great time making wonderful memories with family and friends. To those of you that have served, or know of brave service men and women of whatever conflict, you have my eternal thanks for your courage and commitment to a cause bigger than yourself.