While putzin’ around looking for images to put in a post commemorating Memorial Day, it occurred to me I should mention some of the people in my personal life who’ve made a huge difference, and contributed to who I am today.

I had never stopped to count the number of men in my life who had served in the military, and each time I thought of someone, another person would come to mind. I’m certain I’m not the only one who can say this, and that’s what makes our country so awesome! Think of all those you personally know that’ve contributed to the freedom we now enjoy!

I’m either related to, or have been good friends with, all but three of the people on my list. The honorable men listed here wouldn’t dream of calling themselves heroes, and I’m sure they’d blush with embarrassment at the thought of such a thing. However, their names need to be known, and given their proper honor for what they’ve given to us!

I’m very honored to introduce you to the following gentlemen –

1.Byron Willoughby. He was my grandmother’s brother, and served in Germany during WW2, He took clandestine pictures of the concentration camps confirming to the US of Hitler’s atrocities.

2.Charles Montgomery is Melissa’s father who honorably served in Nam despite the tumultuous controversies stateside.

3.Claude Sullivan Jr. During WW2 he was a B-17 pilot and flew 35 missions. After the war he went back to school to earn his bachelor’s in Broadcast Journalism. Because he retained his commission, they recalled him into service for the Korean War, and subsequently, Viet Nam as well. After serving a total of 27 years, he retired and answered God’s call to the ministry, graduating with a Master’s of Divinity in 1978.

He was very  instrumental in leading me to the Lord. He counseled me after the death of our daughter Mallory, and blessed our our daughter Jacquelyn when she was born.

4.Larry Grim – my father-in-law. He served for four years in the Navy aboard the USS Enterprise during the Korean War. Implementing lessons learned from his own father, he became the best grandfather you’d ever know. After the war he worked for GTE in California, and became the General Construction Mgr for all of California.

5.Raymond Willoughby. He was another brother of my grandmother. He served in the African Theatre during WW2. He was a quiet, unassuming man who never spoke of his war experiences at all. He died in 2002.

6.Robert (Bob) Boardman. He served 2 tours in Okinawa during WW2. After having 3 fingers of his hand shot off, they sent him back. On the day of his return to the war zone, a sniper shot him, and he summarily lost his voice box.

Bob became a Chaplain for the Marines, wrote numerous books, and served 32 years as a missionary for the Navigators in Okinawa. He was convinced he wouldn’t have made a good Mormon because he couldn’t perform the ‘secret handshake’ with his missing fingers. He was obviously quite the character! He died in 2008 from throat cancer as a result of his war injuries.

7.Ronald Laurence Wake was my step-grandfather. He served 34 years in the Army. Twenty-five were served in the Special Forces. He served 3 tours in Nam, 1 in Laos, and 1 in Cambodia. I was 4-5 yrs old when he married my grandmother, and he became my ‘go-to-guy’ for advice. He’s the reason I married into the military.

My respect for him soared to new heights when some random stranger spat in his face as we were walking out of a convenience store in Ogden, Utah. They told him that’s what he deserved for serving in Nam. The uniform he wore made him an easy target, but it never stopped him from wearing it in public. He became an expert carpenter, and worked at a local lumber company in Ogden, Utah after the war.

8.Wilford Miller. Wilford was married to my grandmother’s sister, June. I never met him, but there were pictures of him hanging up all over her home even after she remarried. He died in the famous ‘Battle of the Bulge’ while serving in Germany during WW2. Those pictures moved me into pursuing a degree in History of World Wars.

9.William Keel was my grandmother’s first husband, my mother’s dad. He served as a Merchant Marine in the Pacific Theatre. Most of his wartime service was spent in the Martial Islands, Sai Pan, Truk, and the Philippines. My mother was born during his time at sea. He was a huge guy. When my husband Kirk met him and shook his hand, he said it felt like his hand had disappeared. He was 6’4″, and for the last 25 yrs of his life, weighed well north of 300 lbs.

My grandparents were polar opposites. He was huge, and my grandmother was 4’11” on a good day wearing heels. After the war he worked at Geneva Steel in the Provo-Orem area, and farmed on weekends.

10.William (Uncle Bill) Warner was my mother-in-law’s uncle. He served in numerous units (mainly in the African Theatre) during WW1. He lived and worked in Florida after the war, and spent a lot of time ocean fishing with Kirk and the rest of the family in the ’60’s.

Although today is about those who served and are no longer with us, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention one person who’s very much still alive (PTL!). The undying admiration I have for my husband Kirk, goes without saying. He served 23 years in the Air Force, which includes 7 months in Saudi Arabia for the 1st Gulf War. He was an Avionics Tech on F-16’s, F-117’s, and C-141’s. Nowadays he’s an Engineer at Boeing. Thank you Kirk!