Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Colonel

My mother died six years ago, and in these last eight months, her three siblings have passed away. We are all in Florida this weekend to pay homage to my mother's oldest brother, my Uncle Y, who died last week. Uncle Y was always a force to be reckoned with...and he and his brother Bill (I am named after my Uncle Bill!), were fixtures in our family. As a result, I feel absolutely no wind in my sails right now.

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...

Love, Lauren

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.

14 comments:

Asthmagirl said...

What a touching tribute to your uncle. Thank you for giving us a window of opportunity to see someone so special.
Hugs...

noble pig said...

Oh, that was a wonderful, heartfelt tribute. I feel it's so wonderful to write a remembrance for someone like that!

TSannie said...

Bless you and your uncle and all the service men and women.

xoabb

Hillbilly2 said...

My condolences to you and your family! A wonderful tribute! May each of us be thankful for our freedom and in remembrance of those who fought for it!

Snooty Primadona said...

What a wonderful tribute! It's sad to see that all of the "old guard" are passing on. It was a better world when they were a part of it.

Laura ~Peach~ said...

Salute!
wonderful tribute... your family is from all around me :-)
love n hugs Laura

Snooty Primadona said...

Sorry, but I've tagged you for a meme (it's a simple one though).

Jules said...

You are very luck to have had Uncle Y in your life...let's hope all the current active service people have a safe passage home and that our country provides the aftercare for their efforts.
J

brneyedgal967 said...

Ah... what a great man and what a life well lived. You wrote a beautiful tribute to him. Thank you for sharing a bit of him with us. "The Greatest Generation"

Debbie in NC said...

Thank you for mentioning the troops in this post. They deserve much more attention! This was a beautiful tribute to Uncle Y.

I lost my Mom almost 5 years ago.

This is my first visit to your blog and I have no clue where I came from to thank them. Maybe it will come to me, but I think I'll be a frequent reader :) Love your writing style and look forward to reading more!

I was at Hallie's then Laura's...not sure. I'm here, doesn't matter! :)

Debbie in NC said...

It was Tammy at The Color of Home!

Whew...

QueenofPlanetHotflash said...

My condolences for your loss, your uncle sounds like a special man. I hug military men every day, my three brothers and my hubby are all retired military.. service men and women never get enough respect and recognition.
Bless your heart for sharing with us.

Mental P Mama said...

Thank you each and every one. We had a wonderful weekend celebrating an amazing man.

Leighanne said...

Uncle Y sounds like a gem. You were blessed to have him. I'm so sorry for your loss.