By Clyde Sinclair, Scouting Chairman, Department of Michigan
About four years ago I came across the Library of Congress’ “Veterans History Project” and thought it would be a great idea if I would interview my uncle who lived in the Detroit area.
Uncle Jack enlisted into the Army upon his graduation from Midland High School, his two older brothers Bob (my father) and Don had enlisted previously. Our family had been a “Midland” family since 1869.
Uncle Don passed away back in 1974, shortly after I received my discharge from the Air Force. I never got to know him very well, since upon coming home from WWII he moved to Texas. When I was about ten years old, he moved into the house next to us.
Uncle Don was wounded during the war, and upon coming home, he was encouraged to apply for employment at the U.S. Postal Service, which he did. He continued to work at the post office until he retired.
My father served as the First Sgt. for the Repair Squadron of the 45th Air Depot Group. There was at least one time that my father managed to meet Uncle Don behind the lines during the war.
Dad brought home plenty of pictures and souvenirs which we have all enjoyed. Fortunately, I have ended up with his military records and uniform and have learned much about him. Though Dad brought home the souvenirs and pictures, he never really talked much about his service, although he did enjoy attending reunions of the 45th ADG.
My father passed away on December 31, 1992.
Then there was Uncle Jack. He took me to my first Tiger baseball game and made us laugh every time we visited him. After the war, Uncle Jack settled down in Livonia, and he would often show us small town boys a part of the “big city” of Detroit.
Uncle Jack was a great guy. He cared about his family, all of his family. Uncle Jack passed away Wednesday, November 21, 2018, the day before Thanksgiving. I’ll be attending his funeral tomorrow.
Why do I share this bit of personal history with you? Because the personal stories of three veterans who participated in this county’s greatest war are lost forever, and I have to live with the memory of my good intentions. Four years ago, when I learned of the Veterans History Project and a dozen times since, as recent as just a few days ago, I intended to interview Uncle Jack and record his stories and his memories. Now it’s too late.
As members of the American Legion, we should resolve that the histories and memories of every veteran be recorded. The stories of their service and sacrifice should be preserved for all time so that younger generations will understand the cost, or value, of what they have inherited.
To accomplish this task promptly will require the efforts of every Legionnaire in every Post.
Participants in the Project may be a veteran, an interviewer, or person donating a veteran’s collection. Students in the 10th grade and above may participate as well. The Project also provides an ideal opportunity for a Boy Scout Eagle Scout Service Project or a Girl Scout Gold Award Project.
Scout Brady Schuh wrote the following, after completing his Veterans History Eagle Project. “I cannot express how enlightening and interesting this project has been. From these people, I have learned a great deal about courage, endurance, and patriotism that I have not, and could not have found in my generation.”
I encourage you to go to www.loc.gov/vets/ and review the information found there, print it off and schedule an interview with a veteran. Start with someone you know and expand your circle. If you are associated with Scouting, then you have a great opportunity to network and encourage Eagle Projects.
If we are to capture the stories of our older veterans, we must begin now and work quickly. I would suggest that you share this information with all of the Scouting units in your area, whether or not they are Legion chartered units. It’s all hands on board!
Let’s work together to preserve the history, sacrifice, and service of our Michigan veterans. Currently, there are approximately 15,868 World War 2 veterans living in Michigan. Statistically, five leave us every day.