Family Heroes Who Served in World War II
During World War II, four cousins from my father's side of the family and an uncle and two cousins from my mother's side of the family served in the military.
Can you imagine that my paternal grandparents, Sam and Sylvania Chatham had four grandsons serving in the armed forces at one time? What an anxious time it must have been for them.
Charles Orr Peters Jr. and James Wilburn Peters, were sons of Charles Orr Peters Sr., and Mamie Chatham Peters. Charles enlisted in the US Navy and James enlisted in the US Amy. James was a prisoner of war of the Japanese.
Wayne Chatham and Marcus Chatham, were sons of Herman Melville Chatham and Lola Dean Chatham. Wayne enlisted in the US Navy while Marcus enlisted in the Army. Marcus became a prisoner war of the Germans during his service in Europe. According to his obituary publised in the Houston Chronicle on July 12, 2012, Marcus received two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart for his service in World War II.
I knew all four of these cousins who survived the war and came home to marry and have children. Born in the 1920s, they were all adults when I first came to know them. Most are now deceased and, sadly, I know little of their stories, only that James and Marcus were prisoners of war.
My widowed maternal grandmother, Jessie Bush Weatherford, had a son and two grandsons who served in the military in World War II. Nanny, as Jessie was known, lived in my home.
Weldon S. Weatherford was the sixth child born to Jessie and James Albert Weatherford. Weldon enlisted in the Army on 4 March 1942, at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and served until 1 January 1946. I remember his many visits to my home when I was a child. I maintained a relationship with Uncle Weldon until his death in 1976, but I never heard him speak about his war experiences or where he served. Although I was born just a year after Pearl Harbor, I have vivid memories of "helping" my mother and grandmother wrap packages to send to Uncle Weldon overseas during the war.
Claude Dudley Weatherford, only son of William Alba "Buddy" Weatherford and Elizabeth Giles, Weatherford, attended the University of Houston and received a commission as a Lieutenant in the US Navy. Tragically he died shortly thereafter in a plane crash near Jacksonville, Florida. The gravestone marking Claude's burial bears the Naval Aviation insignia.
George Melvin White, the only son of George Frank White Jr. and Ruby Lillian "Sister" Weatherford White, served in the 143rd Infantry, 36th Division of the Texas National Guard. Melvin was killed in action at Salerno, Italy, on 23 September 1943. He was just 22 years old. Melvin is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Huntsville, Texas.
In preparation for writing this story, I found the application for a Headstone Marker for Melvin's grave on Ancestry.com. The application was signed by his father, on May 19, 1949. My recollection of family history is that Melvin was originally buried in a cemetery in Italy and later brought home to be buried in the family cemetery plot. The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) in Huntsville were present, along with family members, when Melvin was laid to rest in his home state.
On this Memorial Day (May 26, 2014), I give thanks for these sons of Texas who fought to help us enjoy the freedom we have today.
With the unusual number of your family elders having served in World War II and your having been unable to hear or save their stories, the mission you have chosen is much more poignant.
Poignant, indeed. Everyone in the country had someone at war: immediate family, relatives, neighbors, or friends. I was, however, struck by how many in my immediate circle were at war when I was a baby. Can you imagine the effect of being surrounded by grieving parents and grandparents during the first three years of my life?