main story image for facebook sharing

Focus on Service

A Legacy of Service

A look at one family's rich military heritage

It wasn't until the idea for this story came up that I gave much thought to how so many members of my family joined the military, and then ultimately, I really just wanted to find out how we ended up this way.

My mom and both of her parents were in the Navy. My older brother, my dad, and his father are all Marines. (I get it - "Once a Marine, always a Marine.")

This video piece only scratches the surface. I would love to have a professional come talk to all of us and perhaps uncover that one single defining thing that lead us all down the same path. However, I doubt it could ever be narrowed down to just one thing.

This project was emotional for me. We talk to each other all the time. We're not the kind of family that ever has disputes that require everyone to take a side. We've never had family members not speaking to each other for any length of time. We don't have secrets (that I'm aware of.) But even still, I learned things during this process that I'd never known. I heard stories I hadn't heard before. I saw photos I didn't know existed.

My mom called me right before the shoot began and said she found a letter my grandfather had written to his sister in 1944 when he was flying Navy dive bombers somewhere in the Pacific, and that I might be interested in using it. When I got to the house, I found the letter in the living room while my parents were at work. I read it quietly to myself, and by the time I got to the end, my eyes were welling up. Tears for a man I never knew because he died when I was an infant.

I was touched by his words because they were so natural and so genuine, and it so concisely sums up what I think everyone was feeling in those days. I don't know if I thought the patriotism that seems so symbolic of that generation was just something that was added to history books after the fact, or if I thought maybe historians were exaggerating the sentiment for a better story. But in my hand was proof that, almost 70 years ago, someone took pen to paper and made it real. He wasn't writing a screenplay or a book, and I'm sure he never imagined his granddaughter would post it on the Internet.

May 3, 1944

Dear Louise,

Your letter no. 73 was the sweetest letter I have ever received. As I keep reading that letter over, I can see more plainly than ever why we are out here and why everyone puts their heart and soul in their work out here. It is because thousands and thousands on all battle fronts [have] someone at home that means just about as much to them as you mean to me. So if we get the job done out here that will prevent any danger to come into your life back home, then we feel that our sacrifices have not been in vain. What better help can be given out here than to know that our loved ones back home are safe and free from the suffering that millions of people are going through in other parts of the world?

Love as always,

I began this project curious as to why the majority of my family chose to serve in the military. I think this letter answers that question.

So, I hope you enjoy my family's story, and that perhaps it will remind you of your own and why we all serve.