Veterans' Day, 2017

November, 2017

Washington -- Today is Veterans' Day and a time to reflect on family and friends who served in uniform.

Thoughts go first to those veterans I knew personally, albeit as a youngster with little appreciation for their service. Great uncles Ralph Zicafoose, Oscar Spader, and Herbert Bergstrom were all wounded in WWI. Hilmer Bergstrom served in the merchant marine.

Then there are my first cousins, once removed, who served in WWII: Walt Johnson; George Richardson; Les and Orville Oberg; and John Calvin Oberg, who survived the sinking of the USS Wasp.

Four first cousins served during the period from WWII's end through Korea and Vietnam: Roger and Merv Johnson, Virgil Oberg, Byron Almquist.

Many friends and neighbors have served in uniform. I hardly knew him, but neighbor Frank Eager (1872-1960) served in the Philippine War and was awarded the Silver Star. (His family homestead was rented out and he lived in Lincoln.) Several in my high school class served (as did I). Some in my college class were killed or captured in Vietnam.

Going back further, family ancestors on my paternal grandmother's side served in the colonial wars and in the Revolutionary War. Some of their descendants, also forebears, fought on both sides of the Civil War, as their ancestral home was in Virginia at the beginning of the war and in West Virginia at the end of it. Ephraim Zicafoose, who fought for the Union, lies buried in a Union cemetery in Mississippi. His cousin Sampson Zicafoose, my great-great grandfather, died in 1863 of unknown causes after being in the Confederate Army. Likely he was conscripted into it, and may even have perished through fleeing it, as he made it home before his death; but he may also have been a willing defender of slavery, as his wife's family (Simmons) had been slaveholders.

Which leads to the question of what to make of the current controversy over Confederate monuments. Being the descendant of at least one Confederate soldier, I have license equal to other such descendants to voice my opinion, which is to put them in museums, where they will be explained, not celebrated. We are not a country that defaces or blows-up statues. We should confront our history honestly and try to improve from it.

Recognition of uniformed service, in whatever wars, should be a time of reflection more than celebration. Indeed, I'm grateful for all who served in honorable causes. As to my own service, I'd like to think it was in an honorable cause (and some of it was, to be sure; see a previous post), but I'm not putting on my old uniform and joining any parades this Veterans' Day. I could, but won't.