Sunday, May 10, 2009

Legacies & Reunions, Part 1

My father often remarked that all of our fathers and grandfathers had volunteered for wartime service and that our volunteer heritage went back to the Revolution. For years, his telling of those facts meant little to me, for I hadn’t volunteered because of a sense of patriotism—I volunteered seeking to avoid service in a SE Asia rifle company and managed to accomplish that.

However, I did not manage to avoid combat service and thereby became, quite by chance, the fifth generation to not only volunteer, but also the fifth generation to serve in a combat area.

Greatgrandpa served in an infantry regiment assigned to the Army of Tennessee and participated in most of the battles fought by that western army. He served for the duration of the war…a remarkable feat for that period. Grandpa served in an Army division assigned to France during WWI, and his son (my father) flew with the Mighty Eighth Army Air Force during WWII.

The United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), an organization almost as old as the more familiar DAR, has been marking familial lines of service such as ours with a series of crosses, one for each of the wars in which our country has fought since the War Between the States. These fine medals provide a tangible family record of service like nothing else I have found.

During the late 1890’s the crosses were first conceived by a Georgia woman as a tribute to her father and the old soldiers still living. The old rebels had just begun to gather together a few years earlier for the first time since the war and formed the United Confederate Veterans (UCV). Since no medals were awarded by the Confederacy for wartime service, the ladies wanted to honor their fathers’ faithful service and have continued to do so for their descendents for over a century.

If you click to enlarge the old timers’ picture in the preceding post, you can see at least six of them wearing their original Southern Cross of Honor on their left breast.


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