Appreciating the price they paid

Other than Thanksgiving, the next most important day in November is devoted to recognizing and honoring our veterans. Respecting and understanding their specific challenges has been my life-long pursuit. Therefore, in my novel A Thing of Beauty, I included characters who suffered traumas of war and disaster. Furthermore, children and grandchildren of these characters feel the aftershocks of family PTSD. Navigating these troubles and coming to some healing and reconciliation is a key part of my plot. Indeed these are compelling issues for us all. My friends and family have not gone untouched. Today on November 11, I wish to recognize some of the veterans in my life.

Civil War

The young man in the photographs above is my great-uncle Francis Owen (1844-July 1, 1862). He served in Company G, Indiana 44th Infantry which performed notable actions under Grant. Francis’s unit participated at Shiloh and the Siege of Corinth, both in Tennessee. He died at 18 at Tuscumbia, Alabama; My grandfather was 10 months old.

In the photograph on the right, Francis resembles my father in his youth. His hair is darker, but eyes, the nose, the chin, and the general shape of the face is distinctively Owen. However, the left photo shows a grim, bearded man, aged far beyond his eighteen years. The calamity of Civil War had left a bitter mark.

The war to end all wars

Clyde Crossen, veteran of WWI
The young man to the left of my grandmother was her brother Clyde Crossen who served in France during WWI.

I possess my great-uncle Clyde Crossen’s draft notice, stored with precious family photos. My grandmother’s younger brother would travel to Champagne, France where he fell victim to the global pandemic of influenza. Clyde, suffering high temperatures, lost his hair and most likely his health. He died a little more than a decade later. 


World War II

Bud Myers, Marine, veteran of Guadalcanal
Bud Myers, Marine, Purple Heart veteran of Guadalcanal and survivor of the New London School Explosion

Bud Myers was a good friend, Marine veteran of Pacific theater, WWII, and survivor of the New London School explosion. He gave a lifetime of good cheer, hard work, and devoted friendship. When I was an impoverished college student at North Texas State University, he kept my Ford Galaxy 500 running and kept me smiling and encouraged. He was my brother-in-law’s oldest brother and a blessing to know.

Our Opa, Bobby Holt–Vietnam veteran

Bobby Holt and oldest grandson
Veteran Bobby Holt and grandson at the Vietnam memorial in Washington, D.C.

Bobby Holt was a teddybear to his daughters-in-law and grandchildren. However, his sons and wife saw the wounded, angry fallout from the tough months as a sergeant on an advisory team in Vietnam. Dad was left with an aftermath of grief for the young marine who sacrificed himself to save him and a body ravaged by Agent Orange. He left us far too early and we still grieve the lost years and his suffering. He left the world three hard-working men who respect and miss him.

James Holt, medic and military brat

SPC4 James Holt, 498th Support Battalion, 2nd Armored Division
SPC5 James Holt, medic in the 498th Support Battalion, 2nd Armored Division

If you ask my husband his home town, he will tell you, “U.S. Army.” He moved twelve times, one move per year of public school. When he was drafted in December 1972, he felt prepared for basic training. He was, after all, Sergeant Bobby Holt’s son. Thanks to the Paris Peace Accord in January 1973, he would not face Vietnam. He spent his four-year enlistment in Texas and Germany.

Although he did not choose a career in the Army, Jim never lost his heart for military personnel and their families and the particular struggles they face. Consequently, he submitted this as his master’s thesis: Evaluating the Second Generational Legacy of Vietnam, a research proposal for the study of PTSD and its effects on the children and grandchildren of veterans.

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