Maybe it’s the fact I’ve walked the ghostly battlefields of the two most horrendous wars known to humankind that makes this day so profound for me as an individual. Possibly it’s the fact I’ve knelt in respect over the graves of fallen American, Australian, British, German and French regiments of both World Wars that makes today sentimental.
Quite simply–because I’m a wife, a daughter, a granddaughter and a niece to men who have all served in the United States military that makes this post necessary. For their stories of bravery and sacrifice should not be forgotten.
This is the story of our family’s heroes (the Chef and I) …just some good ol’ boys from Texas….
The year is 1915-- A boy from south Texas enlists with the Texas National Guard. Little did he know, but in two years time he would witness firsthand one of the world’s greatest mistakes…World War I. From the peaceful coastal shores of Texas to a dreadful lice infested muddy hell on Earth they called the trenches of the Western Front. He would be over 5k miles from home in a shredded timber forest called Argonne.
A constant struggle of life over death, this young American endured a deliberate war made possible by the rivalry of dueling monarchs–cousins at that. As Sir Edward Grey, a British foreign secretary in 1914 so poignantly stated–”the lamps are going out all over Europe. They will not be lit again in our lifetime.” It would be a war that would span decades and involve many generations of young men and women.
As the lights of Europe dimmed, those of the United States began to sparkle– a rising democratic nation was coming to age. In the rescue of an antiquated continent that had reached its zenith in time, the entry of the U.S. into WWI would shift the influence of power even farther West.
Did this young Texan understand the meaning of the war in which he found himself, maybe, who knows for sure. Little of his experience was ever shared after his return from the Western Front in 1918. The only known facts of his horrendous experience were found in the margins of a Bible. A bible that after 94 years resurfaced. It would serve as a guide for his granddaughter and great-grandson as they made their way to the last remaining, yet eroding trenches of the Argonne Forest. As they walked the land that terrified so many young boys in 1918, the importance of his life took on an even greater meaning. Having survived the trenches in 1917 meant his story would survive too. It only took 94 years for it to be heard.
William Hendricks Sr. fought for the crusade of democracy… the Chef’s Great-Grandfather
The year is 1941. Still reeling from that unexpected attack–an attack that awakened a sleeping giant. Young men determined to seek justice, flooded the military ready to take on the world. A world in turmoil because of one man’s deranged ideologies and need for revenge due to the outcome of the First World War. It was Hitler’s war.
Enlisting with the Navy in spring of 1942, a young central Texas boy and his new bride left the heartland and headed West, to the California coastline. With a background in aviation it was there he assisted America in her ascent to become a military superpower.
Britt William Villines Jr. served for justice…. my Grandfather
An engineering major in his junior year at the University of Texas leaves Austin to join the B-24 Bomber training program for the United States Army Air Forces, later to be called the US Air Force. Made a 2nd lieutenant, his duty was to secure the homefront from the Atlantic to the Pacific.
Aaron Armstrong Pumphrey, Jr. flew to protect the freedom of the American homefront… my uncle “Jack”
Over the battlefields of WWII a plane was shot down. The lone survivor, a boy from Texas, was captured. Held prisoner by the Nazis for a period of time before being released. He survived the hell of a POW camp.
William Hendricks Jr. flew for liberation…the Chef’s Great-Uncle…no photo
From the swaying wheat fields of south Texas, a young man from humble beginnings finds himself among hundreds of other boys as members of Fleet Admiral Nimitz. Sailing with the Pacific Fleet to push back the Japanese, he becomes witness to some of the most impressive carrier and battleship sea conflicts known in military history.
Frank Klepac sailed for defense… the Chef’s Grandfather
The year is 1968–Once again the US finds herself in a struggle to combat totalitarian governments and defend her balance of power. It’s the height of The Cold War and the theater is the Pacific once again–Vietnam.
A Texas farm boy, eager for a life more exciting than that of his fathers, finds himself afloat in the Western Pacific on a highly advanced Navy vessel, the USS Constellation. Having enlisted with the Navy before he was drafted into the Army, this young man was more than excited about his new career choice. After reaching the coasts of Vietnam, he took to the skies, where he felt most at home– jamming radar and refueling jets mid-air. He would continue to sail on many more missions–including the Mediterranean on the USS Independence.
Britt William Villines, III sailed and flew for freedom…my Daddy
The year is 2004–The United States confronts the effects of a post-911 world and a war rages in the Middle East over ideologies.
A talented 26 year old man closes down his popular restaurant to serve his nation as a member of the US Coast Guard. Early in his career he saves the life of a fisherman lost at sea while aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Amberjack. He goes on to the US Coast Guard’s Keeper Class cutters, which ensure aids to navigation remain operable and viable for U.S. shipping interests.
Troy Matthew Shaw serves and sails for the security and sustainability of the homeland…the Chef, my husband!
And so…the military pride runs deep with this family. We appreciate the service–past, present and future of the many men, women and animals (yes, animals–read the story of Cher Ami) that continue to make our nation exceptional!