Veterans in the Family

By Leah
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Have you ever noticed how certain jobs are often “passed down” through generations of a family? Even if the coming generation doesn’t intend to follow, somehow they find for reasons they never expected, to be employed in the same way as the older generations of their family. My grandfather was a blacksmith, and my father became a mechanic — the next logical step from smithing. My father also worked at a well-known boat factory installing motors for a time. Now my son works at that same factory, only he works in the warehouse — the same job his father does in a different factory. My husband thinks that it is a type of security: You grew up with a family member working a specific job, so you know it will provide well for you, too. Whatever the reason, it seems to be the norm. Especially in military families.

I come from a long line of military families. It started with my great grandfather Lewis Roberts, my father’s grandfather. At the time he lived in Virginia and when the civil war broke out, he went against the rest of his family and joined the Union Army. The Roberts are of Welsh decent and very patriotic. I only have one faded photograph of Grandpa Lewis, but I do have his army pension certificate. He was in the battle of Pea Ridge and was wounded there.

During World War I, my mother’s uncle William Rich was a doughboy in the trenches of France. He survived, came home, married a distant cousin, and moved to California where he lived the rest of his life on disability due to his service.

When World War II came, my father and his brother Carl were both drafted. Uncle Carl was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis shortly after he completed basic. He was honorably discharged and went to Washington state to work in an aircraft factory. My father went on to take part in the Normandy landing on Utah Beach and fought in every major battle in the Allied offensive.

My uncle Carl had two sons who were both drafted into the Vietnam War. Gary served in the Marines and Richard was in the U.S. Air Force. I remember as a child receiving presents from them — coins and dolls and seashells. But I didn’t understand how much danger they were in, or how brave they were until many years later.

Greg’s father also served during the Vietnam war. Larry McAllister enlisted in the Air Force to further his education and have a career. He went to school to become an officer and was posted to the island of Guam to work in personnel at Anderson Air Force base. A squadron of B-52 bombers were stationed there, and the family watched them take off to lay down carpets of bombs in the Vietnam jungles. It was always nerve-wracking waiting to see if the big birds would return safely from their mission. Later, Larry became a general’s aid and was sent to the Pentagon in Washington D.C.. There they witnessed first hand the protest marches on the capitol and the many confrontations between the protesters and the police. Larry was given a medical disability discharge in 1973 and retired as a Captain.

In 1980, Greg’s brother Brian McAllister achieved his lifelong dream and was accepted to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Brian trained as a pilot and during Desert Storm he was on the island of Oman where he flew missions in a C-130 cargo aircraft. He retired as a Major after 24 years of service (including the four years at the Academy) and is now a pilot for Southwest Airlines.

Greg also followed his father into the Air Force in the summer of 1979. He started as a Security Policeman and was stationed at RAF Lakenheath, England, UK for three years. He guarded the F-111 fighter bombers there. In 1983 we returned to the states and Greg cross-trained to become an Imagery Interrupter reading satellite imagery over the Soviet Union. In 1985 he left the Air Force and we came home. Later that year, he joined the local National Guard HHB, 1st /142nd Field Artillery Battalion, first as a Track Command Post driver for Fire Direction & Control, then he became a Chaplain’s Assistant. In 1990 his unit was sent to Desert Storm where they became attached to a British Armored Division. Greg retired from the National Guard in 1999 after 21 years of military service.

Back on my mother’s side of the family was my cousin Terry Eddings. He was also drafted during Vietnam and served in the Navy. He was stationed a Norfolk, Virginia, where he worked in Encrypted Communications. Such messages were highly classified, and Terry was always aware of the great trust placed in him. Years later one of his nephews, Todd Swartz, also served in the Navy and was stationed in Cuba at Guantanamo Bay where he ran the ship-to-shore ferry. The latest member of the family to join the ranks is Dallas Roe, Terry’s great nephew, who just graduated from Marine basic training. He hopes to train for the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations, but failing that he will train to become a gunner.

My daughter-in-law, Brittany (Hill) McAllister’s grandfather Benny Joe Matlock served in the Korean war in the 6th Division known as the Arrowhead Division. He was taken as a prisoner of war and remained one for 32 months and 25 days. He was released at the end of the war, and was given a disability discharge. In later years, he was a proud member of the VFW and the Disabled Veterans.

A real example of family service is the family of my friends Mary and David Stevens. David served in Vietnam in the 261 Transportation division. When David returned, he was sent to Fort Lewis, Washington where he met Mary Trusty, a member of the Medical Corp stationed there. They fell in love and were married three weeks later. They have been married 49 years now. Their son Charles served in the Navy during Desert Storm, and his grandson, David Jr., is still serving in the Navy today.

But the military is not just for men, as Mary proved. My dear friend Chelsie Kowalsky also served in the Navy from September 2001 to September 2003 aboard the Aircraft Carrier George Washington DVN 73. She refueled the fighter aircraft for missions, a hazardous job to have. And planning to carry on the family tradition is Chelsie’s stepdaughter Destiny Kowalsky, who is currently enrolled in the ROTC program and planning on joining the Navy after graduation.

Thank you to ALL veterans — past and present — who have served your country. And may God bless and keep all veterans and future veterans in His care.