On Memorial Day, I have written about those who fought but did not come home. For Veterans Day, I want to show some of those who fought for their country and returned home. They did their service, some for the amount of time they were drafted for, and some made a career of it. They all served honorable. There were many others than the ones shown, but these are the only family members I have photos of in their uniforms.
My Dad was one of the veterans. He was drafted for the Korean Conflict. He served in Japan and Korea. He was a cook in the Army and the only time he used his gun was every 6 months when he had to go through weapons training to recertify.
He had some funny remembrances that made it sound like a grand old time. But, underneath there were some moments that were haunting. They never left him. I remember him telling about how he and another soldier were ordered to walk up a ladder on one side of the ship in full gear to draw enemy fire. They would run across the deck, climb down the ladder, then swim around and repeat. I don’t know how long they did this.
There was also his experiences of the major earthquake that hit Japan in the early 1950s. He told me about how his fellow soldiers who weren’t from California and were not used to earthquakes ran out in the streets and were scalded with the boiling hot water that was in the above ground water pipes that had burst.
I do not know how close my Dad was to the fighting. I believe he spent most of his service in Japan. I remember him telling me about the prostitutes who were certified by the US government (too much information there, Dad!) and the Japanese child who became a part of their camp.
Then, there was the poverty. My Dad lived through the Depression and remembered when his parents could no longer afford the weekly milk delivery, so he understood not having enough to eat. Yet, he was shaken by the poverty he saw in the villages. When they closed up a camp, they were ordered to bury their perishables. They would watch the poor, hungry villagers come out from the hills and dig all through their camp trying to find any food. They’d go through the garbage and eat whatever they could.
All of these experiences were a part of my Dad. Though he went on to manage a race car team, run a gas station, get married, raise 5 kids, work the graveyard shift for Safeway, volunteer his time off to Little League, and spoil his grandkids rotten, he never forget what he experienced during his service. It is why he always felt war should be the last option and those who make decisions never should go into it lightly.
These are some of the men in my family tree who served their country. They all returned home. While they went on to have families and careers, like my Dad, I am sure they never forgot their experiences.
Large photo: My grandpa, Jean Lassalle, served in WWI. He joined the California National Guard in the 1930s so his family would have food on the table.
Top to bottom: Jose Pacheco Smith, Theodore Pacheco, and Albert Figg (husband of Sophie Figg) all served in WWI.
Left to right: My Dad served in the Korean Conflict, and his brother, Eugene, served in Europe in the late 1950s.
My Mom’s cousin, Ted Souza, served in WWII and made the military his career choice. Ted will be 89 years old in two weeks and he’s still going strong.
Remembering them all on Veterans Day and thanking them for their service.
Genealogist and writer. Creator of the Portuguese Hawaiian Genealogy and Heritage website, yourislandroutes.com