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Thanks To All Who Served, Including My Dad & Uncles! #MemorialDay

Today is a day to reflect on all those that served and helped our military in any way, throughout the years. It took me a half a century to look into my own family’s military history, and I was surprised by the information that I discovered.

We had a running joke in the family. My dad was in the Army during the Korean war. That is no joke of course. The joke is, and it is the truth, he was stationed in Austria! There were very few Koreans in Austria in the early 1950’s! He was clearly out of harm’s way. After later discussions, I found out my dad was part of the occupation of Europe, post WW2. Well, this is a horse of a different color. He was in Europe as part of the Marshall Plan, I never thought to ask before this what he was actually doing in Austria. Now I know. He was the military police patrolling Salzburg.

And before your own family history is lost forever, ask your parents and grandparents, and everyone still alive from previous generations, to tell you their life/military history. You might find out some interesting information about the generations that preceded you.

I continued to ask my dad questions about other family members who served, but are now deceased. I was surprised by the story of one of my uncles. I had recently found out from my cousin that my uncle was a gunner in the air force, flying sorties over Germany. My cousin related a funny story about how the first time they went up in the air, my uncle’s partner on the other side of the plane, had to scream at him to start shooting. He may have froze up a little, what would you expect from a little Jewish boy from the Bronx.

But there is more. My chubby uncle, who used to sneak sweets all over his house (my aunt related some hysterical stories through the years), was actually a war hero. These are my dads words, and he is right. My uncle was fighting the Germans, shooting guns out of a plane, and his gunner partner at the time, on the other side of the plane, was hit and cut in two. How horrific is it to see that happen, and then to be able to survive that attack on their plane.

And then the war was over. But not for my uncle. He was a Jew from the Bronx and knew how to speak Yiddish,. I found out that he was part of the group that liberated other Jews from the concentration camps. They needed his Yiddish speaking skills. I had no idea. I have a huge new found respect for my Uncle Manny. This was not the man I knew growing up, I am so happy to learn of his war service. I wish I had thought to ask my family about their service when they were alive.

My dad and I then spoke of my Uncle Albert (his oldest brother). His service was less glamorous, he was stationed in Hawaii, after Pearl Harbor. He worked hard, but I do not think there was any combat happening at that time. Turns out my father’s cousins (three of them) were also stationed in Hawaii at different points. I had no idea that my dad’s entire generation of Russian immigrants (1st generation Americans) were servicemen. I am proud to finally have this information and share it with you on this Memorial Day.

Happy Memorial Day.