Uncle Y was a career army officer with a brilliant mind. He loved his family and his country. And while I make no secret of my sorrow over those lost in warfare, I am also immensely proud of my family's dedication to military service. I can trace my family's military roots from the Revolutionary War to each and every war this country has since endured. Uncle Y embodied that spirit that I honor and that I am thankful for not only as an American, but, more importantly, as his niece. Below is a small part of his legacy which was detailed in his obituary.
....Y Y began a long military career when he joined the Army on July 4, l944. After Infantry Basic, he graduated from OCS as a 2nd Lt. and served in the occupation force in Germany. In January l947, he rushed home to marry his childhood sweetheart, Bettye Virginia Lee, of Spartanburg, SC, and to attend Vanderbilt University on a football scholarship. Graduating in January 1951, he was immediately called back to active duty for the Korean Conflict. He later attended Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, KS; Armed Forces Staff College, Norfolk, VA; and Army War College, Carlisle, PA. In Vietnam, he commanded the 2/l6 Battalion of the famed "Big Red One" Division. Y Y always considered one of the highest honors anyone could attain "was to be given command of his fellow soldiers in combat." He was awarded numerous medals and badges for service in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, including: the Bronze Star for Valor with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross, Legion of Merit with Cluster, Air Medal with 4 Oak Leaf Clusters, Meritorious Service Medal, ROK Presidential Unit Citation, Combat Infantry Badge, Airborne, Ranger, General Staff Badges, and many other air and service medals and badges. After his retirement as head of the Ranger Training Command, Fort Benning, GA, Y Y made St. Petersburg his home.
I did not even know of all these accomplishments...he was always just my Uncle Y, and he loved us all. Unconditionally. I always cherished our visits to their beautiful place in Florida, and Fort Benning before that. Nor will I ever forget his debates with my mother. There were many. One time over cocktails, and with utter, smirking vindication, he read aloud to my mother from his newspaper:
Uncle Y (positively giddy): Listen here Betty Ann, "The days of the white wine sippin', Volvo drivin', white, southern liberal are drawing to an end."
Betty Ann (puffing up and a little red in the face): YY, they don't know what they're talking about...blah, blah, blabbity blah...blah, blah, blah
Uncle Y: (not hearing a word she said, because he was laughing too hard)
His love for us all was genuine and unconditional.
God Bless you Uncle Y, and I hope to have the honor of seeing you again down the road...
PS: Internets, please try to thank a serviceperson when you see one. I have been known to go up and hug complete strangers wearing their fatigues in an airport. Because they need it.