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Finding Forgotten Military Heroes in the Family

The importance of researching a family member’s military service.

Fining forgotten military heroes in your family
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Sometimes we overlook the heroes closest to us. That was the case with my father-in-law. We knew he was a World War II veteran, but because he didn’t discuss his experience, we didn’t dig too deeply.

We lost him this past Christmas and in the process of preparing for his funeral, we discovered what a truly great hero he was. 

Claude Everett MelsonHe enlisted at the beginning of the war while still in college and entered the army as a private. Just a few short years later, he was honorably discharged with the rank of First Lieutenant. He’d also been awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Silver Star.

How I wish we’d taken the time to learn more about his involvement in the war–he would have answered specific questions if we’d done a little research and known what to ask.

Read More: How You Can Help Support Our Military

Fortunately, there was one family member who took time to do just that. This cousin was a military history buff, and he researched the areas where my father-in-law served. Because he could ask informed questions, my father-in-law answered them, and we now know a small part of his story. We learned the Silver Star was awarded to him because he carried a wounded comrade to safety through a mine field. We know he was in the Battle of the Bulge and several other well-known conflicts in the European theater. 

This year, Memorial Day has a deeper meaning for my family because of what we know about his military service. We’re grateful to that one cousin who took the time to find out more.

I urge you to do the same, while your heroes are still with you. Find out as much as you can. Even if they are reluctant to talk about their experiences, chances are they’ll answer direct questions if you do a little digging. You’ll be richly rewarded with a family story for generations to come.

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