Sunday, July 4, 2010

Independance Day --- What Does It Mean To Me?

"O say does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave,
O're the land of the free, and the home of the brave."

I've been thinking a lot about Independence Day and what it means to me.  As some of you know, I love genealogy.  I have made it my passion over the past several years to investigate my roots.  So, when thinking about Independence Day, I cannot help but think of my ancestors and what they sacrificed in order for me to sit here on this early July 4th morning and write what I feel and expect others to read it without fear of persecution from my government.

I think of my 8th Great Grandfather, William (Willie) Stephens II, born 1711 in York Co, VA and died 1781 in the harbor at Beaufort, NC on a British Prison Ship.  History teaches us that conditions on board the British Prison Ships were atrocious, with most prisoners dying of disease or starvation.  The few who survived the ordeal told stories of atrocities too offensive to be repeated.

My 5th Great Grandfather, John Thurman, born 3 Dec, 1757 in Prince Edward Co., VA and died 6 Oct, 1827 in Sevier Co., TN.  While residing in Albemarle Co., VA, John Thurman volunteered sometime between the years 1776 and 1779, served at various times amounting to three years in all, as a Private in the Virginia Troops under Captains John Miller, John Key, Sergeants Christopher Clark, Epperson, Brown and Benjamin Harris and Colonel Lindsey, was in several engagements, one of which was near Charlottesville, VA, and was at the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown, after which he was discharged in October, 1781.
I reflect upon my 4th Great Grandfather, Sanford C. Allen, born 1794 in Fairfax Co., VA and died Dec 1865 in Sevier Co., TN after losing 4 of his 5 sons in the War Between the States and after having fought himself in the War of 1812.
There was my  3rd Great Grandfather, William Allen, born 1822 in Sevier Co., TN and died 28 Feb, 1863 on the battlefield near Nashville, Davidson Co., TN of yellow fever while serving in K Co., 2nd TN Calvary, 14th U.S. Corp., Dept. of the Cumberland.  He left behind a  widow and 4 children between the ages of 2 and 15 years.  His oldest child, my 2nd Great Grandfather, Gideon A. Allen, left Sevier Co., TN about 1887 and headed west with his family to search for his father's grave.  To my knowledge, it was never found.  William and 3 of his brothers died in service to their country, 2 of which are buried at Stones River National Cemetery in Rutherford Co., TN
Another 4th Great Grandfather, William Nathaniel Atkinson, born 1769 in North Carolina and died 2 Apr, 1862 at the Battle of Shiloh in Hardin Co., TN.  He was carried to his home in neighboring Wayne Co., TN, where neighbors had gathered to construct a coffin for him.  His son-in-law and grandson had begun the trek back home for his funeral and were captured by Confederate troops.  After learning of their plight, the Confederates released the men, but refused to give them horses to make the trip.  The two men walked the 10+ miles back to their home place where William Atkinson was buried on the following day.
William's son, John M. Atkinson (my 3rd Great Grandfather), born about 1814 in Wayne Co., TN, also served with the 6th TN Calvary, Co., K during the Civil War.  John's son, David James Atkinson, my 2nd Great Grandfather, born 9 May, 1845 in Wayne Co., TN and died 17 Aug, 1928 in Hardeman Co., TN, also served with Hurst's Nation in the 6th TN Calvary.  Hurst's Nation was a group of Union sympathizers located within Wayne Co., TN. 
David James Atkinson
1845 - 1928
The War Between the States
There was my Grand Uncle, Ralph F. Newland, who served in World War II in Germany and received numerous decorations for his service.  Uncle Buster never spoke of his war time experiences once he returned home.  Heroes in my family include numerous and varied cousins who served in both World Wars. 
Ralph F. "Buster" Newland
1915 - 1998
World War II --- Germany
A cousin, John William Howell, born 27 Dec, 1949 in Hardeman Co., TN and died 15 Feb, 1971 in Quang Tri Region, Republic of Vietnam, South Vietnam.  Johnny was killed in battle by small weapons fire.  He served with E Company, 187th Infantry Division, 3rd Battalion, Light Weapons Infantry Division, U. S. Army.   He was a Sergeant and was engaged to Debbie.  I will never forget the sadness that befell our entire county when news of Johnny's death reached his home.  Debbie died in a motorcycle accident less than 2 years after Johnny's death.  Most people said she simply could not stand to live without Johnny.  This is a link to Johnny's Virtual Wall page:  .
My Daddy, Van P. McDonald, born 4 Nov, 1932 in Hardeman Co., TN, was drafted into the Army after being turned down as a volunteer for the Air Force.  He was due to ship out to Korea on the day the peace agreement was signed.  His orders were changed and he spent 18 months in Germany instead.  He was a Corporal and was offered a promotion to Sergeant upon re-enlistment.  He declined the offer.  He was a squad leader for a sharp shooter squad in Co. K of the 12th Regiment and received numerous citations for his abilities as a marksman.  He was notified of possible re-activation to Vietnam as an Army Reserve sniper, but thankfully that never materialized.
Van P. McDonald
1932 - Present
Korean Conflict Era
My nephew-in-love, Brian K. Eppers, served with the U. S. Army Reserve as a Medic and was deployed to Iraq for 12 months between Dec, 2004 and Dec, 2005.  He continues to serve with the Dept. of Homeland Security in a WMD Response Unit. 
Brian K. Eppers
1980 - Present

And, most recently, my youngest nephew, Caleb M. Watkins, has joined the TN National Guard and is currently in Basic Training in Ft. Leonard Wood, MO with a Military Police Battalion.  He was just appointed a squad leader, following in his Papaw Mac's footsteps.
Caleb M. Watkins
1991 - Present
TN National Guard
L-R:  Jake, Charlotte, Ricky and Caleb
These are but a few of the men and women in my ancestry who have fought, and many died, for the independence I celebrate today.  And, my ancestors are but a few of the many hundreds of thousands who have served and died from every corner of our nation in order that we might enjoy liberty.  What an awesome responsibility we have to honor those men and women and continue the fight to keep our nation free!
God Bless the U.S.A.!!!!!! 
And, God Bless those courageous men and women
 who continue to sacrifice so freely that we might remain free!!!!


Denise said...

I am so impressed with how much you know about your family history.

Happy Independance Day Diane!!!

Constance said...

Likewise our family has a rich Patriotic history! I brought home all of the Genealogy information from my In-Laws house and I suppose that I have ONE MORE project to work on! Thinking of you and appreciating all of the encouragement you leave me!
Love and Hugs,

Trish said...

What a blessing to know so much about your heritage! My Daddy's Uncle Buster (his Mama's brother)
fought and died in WWII. His daughter Edna was born while he was gone and never knew her Daddy. When my Daddy returned from the war Edna told me that he always checked on them. She said at Daddy's funeral, every time he did that he never failed to say..."I love you Edna and God does too." Awesome heritage...loving Jesus!

Felisol said...

Dear Diane,
Thank you for giving me such a rich lesson in American history through your forefathers.
It's a proud history, with huge sacrifices and it has formed the USA to the leading role it has today.
I'm afraid I often forget looking backwards to acknowledge that in every American generation people have fought for their country and their families.It's impressing.
May you remain home of the free and land of the brave.

Jada's Gigi said...

what an extraordinary family you have! you are right to be proud of them! and like many a Southern girl you know your family history! Good for you!