Category Archives: Veterans

Military

WWII Pearl Harbor Survivor

Honoring those who have chosen an occupation in the military is an important part of our national holiday Memorial Day. Every branch of the service is integral in defense.

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Veteran

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During a trip visiting my mother and her husband , I had the pleasure of going to the Air Force  Enlisted Heritage Institute.  It is a state attraction.  Civilians are educated at this museum on the history of the air power of the Air Force.  We had hardly walked in the door when my step-dad Roy was greeted like a rock star.  He is a retired WWII  veteran and Stalag 17 POW.  His plane was shot down and he was captured by enemy forces for almost two years in 1942.

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Sofie

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Sofie just came hunting in my backyard.  I see her, but she does not see me.  I watch.  I enjoy.  Sofie went MIA after neighbors shot off obnoxiously loud fireworks July 4th.  It is no surprise She went into hiding.  She showed up a few weeks later in the postman’s arms to the delight of my heartbroken neighbors!

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July 4, 1944 (WAR TIME)

Babe Ruth and Baseball an American Sport's Past time. Photo owned by your blogger.

Babe Ruth and Baseball an American Sport’s Past time. Photo owned by your blogger.

There is irony in knowing that half across the world July 4th, 1944 was celebrated by a number of American POW soldiers at Stalag 17B by playing baseball. In America on that very same day, those soldiers’ loved ones were not so celebratory. There were no fireworks going off in the small towns that many of these soldiers grew up in.
Roy and his wife Hilde McGinnis enjoying a summer day in 2014.  Quite different from his POW days 70 years ago.

Roy and his wife Hilde McGinnis enjoying a summer day in 2014. Quite different from his POW days 70 years ago.

As a matter of opinion, the understanding of individual experiences as related to collective memory of the past have always interested me. There is no other way to describe a day in the life of a POW soldier unless you have asked him. As a way of remembering what July 4th should mean to all of us, I spoke with my dad POW Roy McGinnis. Here is his take on what he was doing on July 4, 1944:
Roy was 22 years old and had just been woke up by the usual prison guards making their rounds and yelling at the soldiers. The treatment at Stalag 17B was never good and at times brutal. It was a beautiful summer day and besides being July 4th, it was a great day to play a competitive game of softball. The Wehrmacht (German soldiers) had much friction with the Americans, but they did let them play their games.
The GIs’ loved playing ball. It passed the time by and it was one of the only real morale boosters the soldiers did have. The International YMCA almost always fulfilled requisitions for sports equipment for the American soldiers in prison. It is also noteworthy that the Wehrmacht let the Americans have their things to play and enjoyed watching the fierce competition of the American GI with his brother in captivity!
“We formed our teams. You know the North Versus South. I was of course on the southern side since I grew up in Alabama.”
I laughed with Roy and said, “Yes. Alabama would certainly make you a southerner. No doubt.”
“Well, the game was very competitive. We bet our rations from the Red Cross. This was serious business and you better believe I wanted the south to win!” Roy stated as if he could still hear the crack of the ball being hit by the old wooden bat.
Chuckling I said, “Seriously, you did not take the other soldier’s food over a game.”
Roy said sternly,”You damn straight we did.”
I guess that answered that.
In fact, the rations were like betting your life’s savings. The normal ration included:
Bread, Potatoes, Cottage cheese, Sugar, Jelly, Coffee, and Raisins. The International American Red Cross would try their best to supply what the soldiers needed at that time.
There was a large recreation area in the camp that sports did take place. Pride was taken in teams formed and thus the first POW baseball league was born.
On the playing field that July 4, 1944, the south and north began their game.
“Who won?” I asked
“Well of course, we did. You know the south.” Roy stated.
“Did you really take the Northerners’ rations?” Half seriously I wondered.
“Yes we did. They lost.” Sternly Roy stated as if the war could still be going on.
In fact, as he and I talked of a time that was over 70 years ago, I could see in Roy’s eyes that he was taken back to that ball game and that ball field. It was still war-time to him at that very moment when we spoke. There was nothing else going on at all.
Happy July 4, 2014 to all my readers. May you know how free we are because of many who fought and gave their lives for us. America-what would you have been if not for the brave soldiers of times gone by? Would you have been at all?

Corn Patch Hiding Place

This is an actual photo of my dad's  B-17 that was shot down over Germany during WWII!

This is an actual photo of my dad’s
B-17 that was shot down over Germany during WWII!

Roy McGinnis, a WWII POW, remembers vividly hiding in a corn patch after sliding through mud from a crash landing in his B-17 over Schweinfurt, Germany. The day remains etched in his brain which was October 14, 1943. More than 53 B-17 planes were shot down to the ground from the clear skies over Germany on THAT day. War historians would come to call this day BLACK THURSDAY.
Roy and his crew of 10 service men were on a raid during WWII to destroy ball bearing factories. Instead they ended the day’s mission captured as war prisoners at Stalag 17 near Krems an der Donau, Austria, 43 miles from Vienna. In fact, Roy recalls thinking all of the military planes must have been shot down because of the amount of soldiers he saw captured.
Roy remembers vividly the RED CROSS packages he got that kept him somewhat sane for a short while. It was something to look forward to. It contained coffee, salmon, sardines,cheese, crackers, chocolate and cigarettes. This was a big deal to a soldier. But as the war lingered on, the red cross packages diminished and mostly were stolen by the guards. The packages also had a lot less in them. Roy remembers the bread contained 20% sawdust and 10% straw!
As the war came closer to the end, Roy and his fellow soldiers who had survived were made to march 280 miles. This march led to his freedom. General Eisenhower had at the time set up processing camps in France. This liberation took place on May 5th, 1945 after a painful walk to freedom. In fact many had no clothes and had to use bark from trees to cover themselves.
This story is told in remembrance of many men who did not come back as Roy did. He considers himself one of the lucky ones. If not for his story, we would not really understand what our soldiers went through. Roy volunteered for his service. This was an honor to him to be doing what he believed was the right thing to do and that was to fight for the cause of freedom.
Today Roy at the age of 91 and his wife and my mother, Hilde, live in Montgomery, Alabama. They attend church regularly and live full lives. Roy is asked to speak on regular occasions to the active and retired military throughout the country.
I am lucky to be able to share tidbits with my readers at times so you understand a bit of American History through the eyes of one that lived it.
Thank you for dropping by my blog. It is a versatile blog and I try to share on many topics that typically are about my family. This is one of those stories.

Breakthrough

Valentine's Day Brings A Nice Surprise for me. I took this photo of two lovebirds in Victoria, Canada.

Valentine’s Day Brings A Nice Surprise for me. I took this photo of two lovebirds in Victoria, Canada.

Recently I began thinking of how much information should I share on my blogging? This blog began as a way of pouring out my story for family. As I learned how to share on WordPress, I than realized my life was resonating with others. Yesterday I shared about my disability from my brain tumor. In December I also wrote this blog post: (https://alesiablogs.wordpress.com/2012/12/11/are-you-homeless/). It is a poignant description of a visit to the Veteran’s Administration in Seattle, WA. To sum things up, my sister had helped me apply for disability through the military almost two years. I had all about given up on all this until today.
It is interesting how life takes twists and turns. We never know what may come our way. If you asked me 25 years ago that my life would have turned out the way it has, I would have said you are nuts. I was very self-sufficient and taught to be extremely independent. Yet, now I need help.
Today’s mail came dated on Valentine’s Day from the Department of Veteran’s Affair. I thought to myself could this be my “love” letter from them that began two years ago? Indeed it was. After serving in the military as active duty in Desert Storm overseas and then staying “available” for 15 years for call back, the military finally wrote me a “love” letter.
Here are the HIGHLIGHTS:
Dear Mrs. Alesiablogs (changed for you who know me by this name),
We made a decision (in my favor) on your claim for service connected compensation….This letter tells you about your entitlement amount and payment start date…Your Award Amount and Payment Start Date is shown below…………….
As you can see it was a good letter for me to receive. I do not feel happier from this though to be honest with you. Please do not take this in the wrong way. I am happy for the decision, but my life is so different due to my illness that it is a catch 22. I am learning a new way though. In fact as I received this letter I was on my way to a volunteer effort. Giving back and providing my time for a needed purpose is becoming part of my legacy. What is yours going to be? Did you know there are over 50,000 nonprofit organizations across the country? By volunteering, I am learning a new kind of happy.

When You Think You Have Heard It All…..

1940 CENSUS brings together cousins. Roy (my step-dad) and Melda met for the first time after extensive research was done to find relatives from the past.


Recently I shared a heartwarming story about my WWII VET step-dad Roy and his celebration of his 90th birthday ( http://wp.me/p2rYD1-o8 ). Roy grew up very poor and his parents divorced while he was a boy. Roy never knew when his real dad had passed away. One day he asked me if I could find this information out because of the release of the 1940 census. I was able to give Roy his father’s death date and burial location, but the biggest surprise was that we found out he had a half-brother, and a half-sister he did not know about. When you think you have heard it all life throws you a few new curve balls! We were fortunate to contact them both. In fact a reunion is planned for them to meet. I hope they hurry. No one is getting any younger!
I had recently flown home from Montgomery, Alabama 3000 miles to Seattle after witnessing a tender-hearted visit between my step-dad Roy and his cousin Melda. She was also researching her family tree that included Roy. She decided to drive to Montgomery, Alabama for a delightful visit while I was in town. Melda and I found each other through our mutual research.

Roy and Melda discuss their family roots with photo albums as their respective spouses look on. Genealogy work has confirmed their family lines all the way back to Germany.


Melda reminded me in an email of how special this experience was for her. Upon returning home Melda spoke with her elderly mother about meeting Roy: ” I couldn’t help but stare at Roy’s striking ice blue eyes. When I mentioned it to my mother, she said my grandfather had eyes like that.”
While Melda and Roy are second cousins, Melda’s father who has passed away as well as Roy led interesting work lives in the history of Alabama. Melda’s father was a Superintendent of Education during the changing times in Alabama Public Schools serving the children in Alabama. During that same time period, Roy was working as the Director of Veteran Affairs serving our Veterans. Today I give tribute to both men in their work and their lives.

Roy meeting with Governor George Wallace while he served the Veterans of the Military.