Here in America we are celebrating Memorial Day today. This holiday has its roots in the years following the American Civil War as a way to honor those who died in service of our country.
I was not raised in a family with a strong military culture. (The prompt for #52ancestors is “military .”) Although my dad served in the Utah National Guard he didn’t seem to think of himself as a veteran because he was never in active duty. As far as I know my most recent direct ancestor who died in military service passed away in 1675.
Brandon, on the other hand, comes from a much stronger military tradition. His dad’s side of the family has served in the military for multiple generations. Brandon’s dad served and his brother is serving in the Air Force and his mom also grew up in a military family.
Brandon’s maternal grandpa, SFC Jack M Harris, was born James M Harris in Lewiston, Utah on October 5, 1928.
As an adult he served in the military for a combined 20 years in the Navy and the Army. He fought in both the Korean and Vietnam wars. He started his tour to Vietnam on September 28, 1966 and was due to retire from military service at the end of his tour. In Vietnam he was a Combat Engineer. One day I will look up his unit history (D CO, 86TH ENG BN, 79TH ENG GROUP, 18TH ENG BDE, USARV) to better understand his experience during the war. He died at age 38 from wounds inflicted by hostile gun or small arms fire on April 14, 1967 in Binh Dinh Province, South Vietnam. He both lived his life and gave his life in military service and I am grateful for that service.
Because Jack died more than twenty years before Brandon’s birth, Brandon doesn’t miss his grandfather, per se, but he has definitely felt the absence of a maternal grandfather in his life. One rather trivial example is that Brandon doesn’t know if male pattern baldness is in his future. Jack had two brothers. One kept a full head of hair and the other didn’t, so there is no way to tell what gene Jack carried.
Of course Jack’s death brought much more loss than that. He was a loved family member and friend and his loss was felt by all who loved him. Today I honor him as the great grandfather of my children whose death makes their future possible.