History and remembering are a wonderful way to enlarge the experience of being alive. This thought came to me as I was thinking about writing for Veteran’s Day.
In my family, my sisters and I grew up respecting our flag, our National Anthem, the Pledge of Allegiance, and our military. I had 5 uncles and my dad serve in the military: my dad and 2 of his brothers served as Marines – one of his brothers losing his life at the age of 18 at Iwo Jima. His other brother served in the Army. On my mom’s side, one brother was career Air Force and one in the Navy. I also have 2 cousins who served our country in the military: a Major in the Air Force and an Army Ranger while another cousin is a civilian employee of the Navy who designs the electomagnetic launch system to launch planes from the air craft carriers.
This Veteran’s Day, I want to write about my dad’s oldest brother, my Uncle Eddie. He just turned 93 years old and is a World War II and Korean War vet. He also served as a Drill Instructor for the Marines at Parris Island. My Uncle Ed’s story is amazing.
In March of 1943, Edward O’Donnell joined the United States Marine Corps in Wilkes-Barre, PA. He was sworn in in Philadelphia, PA and sent to boot camp in Parris Island, SC. He was assigned to 19th Company 3rd Marine Division. After training and a few stops along the way, he eventually ended up in Guam where he worked on construction projects and unloaded mortar shells. He sailed out of Guam on the U.S.S. Hercules and arrived off of Iwo Jima-Volcano Islands on February 19, 1945.
While my Uncle Ed was awaiting transport to the island, his ship was attacked by Japanese Kamikaze pilots. Eventually he and his division were transported onto the island and he immediately began hauling supplies from the beachhead to the combat units. He told me his main job was to get ammunition up from the shore areas to the plane drops on Motoyama Airfield.
Knowing that his brother Tom was also on Iwo Jima, my Uncle Ed asked his Commanding Officer, Captain Thomas, if it was possible to find out where his brother Tom, 5th Marine Division, was. The CO gave my uncle a pass, keys to his Jeep, and the location of his brother Tom’s unit. My Uncle Ed found his brother’s unit and was told he just missed them by a few hours – many of men from Tom’s unit had moved up on the lines but that they would be back in two days. He returned two days later to this news – his brother was missing in action. Tom was 18 years old and died leading his unit closer and closer to enemy lines.
Ed returned home to begin work on the railroad but eventually re-enlisted with the Marines. He was promoted to Staff Sergeant and became a Drill Instructor on Parris Island, SC until 1951 when he ended his military career.
My Uncle Ed is 93 years old and still very active with the Marine Corps League. He serves breakfasts, attends parades, and has been honored for his military service. The picture above is a Marine thanking my uncle for his service to our country. This took place while we were attending the Wreaths Across America event in Arlington Cemetery. Each year we place a wreath on my Uncle Tom’s grave – it is always an emotional and powerful experience.
This Veteran’s Day make sure you honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good. Consider changing one light in a visible location in your home or office to green, and keep it glowing every day as a symbol of support and appreciation for our veterans. Thank you, Uncle Ed, for your service to our country – I love you!