~A journey through the decades~

Published: Sunday, January 20, 2013 at 12:36 PM.

I was very young the first time I asked my Dad about his military service.  “Were you in the military daddy?” and he replied “Yep” and then I asked the words that have bothered me for years.  “ So where is your medal?”   Looking back I can remember the sadness in his eyes but at 8 years old I just needed an answer.  My Dad replied “Not everyone gets a medal”   Well, that was that…….and it would be decades before the subject was revisited.

When my oldest daughter started checking into our family history last year it opened up many interesting avenues into our ancestors.  It also made us revisit our past.  I learned more than I needed to about some relatives and not enough about others.  I was able to look at the census reports and track the dynamics of my Dad’s family .  When my grandfather packed up and left his young family…..it was my Dad who stepped up to fill his shoes.  At the age of 17 years old, he joined the United States Army.  Too young to legally enlist, his Mother had to sign the documents allowing him join the military service.  So on Sept. 4, 1946, 17 year old Private 1st Class James O. Middleton joined his “Uncle Sam” at Fort Sheridon to begin active duty.

  After serving his country my Dad was honorably discharged and began his civilian life.  He did inquire once about his medal but was told that there was a shortage of medals, as well as metal.  During World War II there were shortages in a lot of areas.  So the medal was forgotten and he moved on. 

My Dad was married, had two children, three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren and retired from the Civil Service at Tyndall Air Force Base. ….the years and decades passed.  He is a proud veteran but never talked about his military days until the day that he told my daughter Stephanie that he was owed a medal from the United States Army. 

When my daughter brought it to my attention I simply told her “No, he is not owed a medal because I asked him one day about it.” But she just kept saying ask him…..so that’s what I did.  We were right back to where we started when I was eight years old. 

“Dad, what’s this about the Army owing you a medal?”  He explained that he was supposed to get one but when he was discharged there was a shortage.  He never tried again. 

“Do you want me to check on it Dad?” That was my first question and the second one was “Why didn’t you tell me before now?”  He didn’t really have an answer for either questions…..but he said he sure would like to see his medal.  And so began my journey with the Army.  I learned very quickly that the US Army likes duplicates of everything.  Sometimes I had to fill out the same paperwork three times but I pushed on…… only to find out that my Dad’s military records were destroyed in a fire in 1973. 

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