While away, I asked my best friend of 40 plus years to write a tribute to her beloved father and dear uncles who heroically served during World War II.
Whether you call it Remembrance Day or Veterans Day in North America, “remembering” is an acknowledgement that we grasp what it took for that gutsy generation to defend freedom for the world.
We not only owe them a debt of gratitude for their service; but more importantly, we need to constantly rehearse the history of their sacrifice that made the quality of life we enjoy today a reality.
I hope this small portion of our family history will motivate you to write your own family’s record of service, so that future generations can too remember.
FOUR BROTHERS PROUDLY SERVED THEIR COUNTRY
During World War II, four brothers from eastern Montana honorably served in the armed forces— Edward Jr., Tony, Simon and Benjamin Sieler. Three were drafted, while the fourth and youngest, who was my father, enlisted—all were deemed “fit to serve.”
Edward, Jr., the oldest, was one of the first draftees from Fallon County and en route to Hawaii when Pearl Harbor was attacked.
My memories of him are few, but precious. And, while I’ve been told it’s unusual for toddlers to retain early childhood memories, I remember him as a kind, gentle and generous human being.
I’m getting ahead of the story, but I’ll tell you now, that God miraculously brought all four brothers home safely following the hell that is war.
Each had a profound faith in God and chose at a definitive point in their lives to become born-again Christians.
Shortly after they returned home, Uncle Ed and Uncle Simon helped Dad and Mom build their first house. I can still smell the new house linoleum and varnished trim in the sunshine-filled kitchen. By that time, my father Benjamin was a prosperous graduate of the New York School of Design with his own interior design business. The beauty lay not so much in the excellence of the house Dad designed, but rather that it was built out of solidarity that they had survived the war; it was the embodiment of brotherly love.
I remember running down the long hallway from my big-girl bed with my baby sister still asleep in her crib and jumping into Uncle Ed’s lap as Dad read the paper and Mom served breakfast. A brilliant pink sunrise filled the yellow kitchen; copper hardware flashed in the sunlight. I was allowed a sip of his coffee when Mom wasn’t looking. Hidden under the table was a big green-striped box with a child’s china tea set that was much used, but sits pristine in my dish closet today.
HONORED FOR GALLANTRY
From a local newspaper clipping, we know that as an infantryman with the 161st Regiment, Uncle Ed was awarded the Silver Star in 1945 for gallantry by Major General Charles L. Mullins, Jr., commander of The 25th Infantry (Tropic Lightning) Division.
Here’s a portion of the clipping as it was written, unedited:
“Before the 161st Regiment attacked a strongly defended town in central Luzon, a reinforced patrol, which Private Sieler volunteered to accompany as a wireman, attempted to gain vital information concerning the powerful enemy garrison seeking to establish a foothold on the town. When the patrol reached the outskirts of the village, it was ambushed by machine gun and rifle fire from at least two machine guns and a platoon of infantry and was pinned down.
Under cover of an 81mm mortar barrage, the platoon was finally able to begin withdrawal. Private Sieler, seeing that an officer had been hit by Jap [sic] fire and lay helpless in an exposed position, helped evacuate the casualty on an improvised litter across 75 yards of open ground covered by intense enemy fire.
Twenty yards from cover, a machine gun raked the carrying party, wounding the officer again, wounding two of the litter bearers, and killing another. In the face of withering fire, Private Sieler fearlessly continued to drag the wounded officer to safety.
Private Sieler, who has been fighting on the front lines of Luzon for more than four months, was with the 161st Regiment’s drive across central Luzon and its slow, uphill battle for Balete Pass in northern Luzon.”
Uncle Ed served during the entire war. My beautiful mother, herself victimized by Stalin and Hitler, often mentions how he would fall into silence when asked details about his experience on Luzon.
There was no psychiatric therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder for that generation—the compassion and love of family brought them to better days. I’m sad that there wasn’t more time with Uncle Ed. He suffered from malaria contracted during his military service and passed away in 1957; I was two years old.
PROTECTING THE HOMEFRONT
Uncle Tony and Uncle Simon served Stateside as Military Police.
While I don’t know much about their service, from all accounts that are not mine to share, it was intense and not without great challenges.
They were strong, tough farm boys suited to their call of duty, but I remember them for their kind and compassionate demeanor.
My Dad, Benjamin Sieler, was a true patriot. Following high school graduation, he enlisted in the army and served honorably in the Pacific as personal assistant to General Charles E. Thompson at Fort Kamehameha, Hawaii.
Dad was in a unique position of responsibility and privilege during his service with the armed forces.
As part of his many duties, he prioritized a weekly list of men who desired to accompany the general to a Baptist church on the Pali on the Island of Oahu. With Dad at the wheel of the general’s Jeep, he never missed a Sunday service and could count on the hospitality of church members for wonderful dinners providing relief from the war.
Dad was known for his gentle congenial demeanor and became fast friends with Joe DiMaggio who was in the same infantry unit. He was a frequent dinner guest of DiMaggio and his new bride, Marilyn Monroe, who entertained the troops in Hawaii. Their friendship endured until DiMaggio’s death.
Prior to his bus ride home, he sent a postcard with a 1-cent stamp to his sister mailed on September 22, 1946:
Everything ok. I am at Ft. Lewis, Wash., now waiting to be discharged. So I’ll be home sometime the end of this week. Hello to Ma, Pa & all. . . . be seeing you soon.
Shortly after Dad’s return, he met a “gorgeous” new immigrant at a Sunday School picnic; they were married shortly thereafter. And, as they say, the rest is history—my history.
I often wonder why when so many paid the ultimate price, these four brothers were allowed to providentially return home.
They’ve all passed from this life into the presence of the Almighty God; and while I honor their memory of service on this day, I know I’ll see them again.
The apostle Paul’s words about the glorious hope available through the finished work of Jesus Christ who was the ultimate sacrifice for freedom from sin can be found in 2 Corinthians 5. CLICK HERE to read the passage!
With blessings for a meaningful day of remembrance,
P.S. Wear a poppy today to honor our veterans.
Moni McCracken is married to Charles E. McCracken and is also a long-time friend of Israel and advocate for the Jewish people. With 40 plus years of ministry experience, the McCrackens are known for authenticity in communicating biblical truth. They staunchly support the nation of Israel and the Jewish people’s right to exist and live in peace.
© Charles E. McCracken 2016, devotional comments only. Repost/Reprint with permission from the author via contact form. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.