Monday, May 31, 2010

A Few Good Men

There are many stories that make up a family’s history. Some of them are happy. Some of them are sad. Some get better each time they are told. This is a little bit of all three. This is a small part of my family’s story.

John Davenport ~ My husband Bob’s Grandfather

Alton Military Academy

We don’t know much about John Davenport. We do know he was an orphan, shipped from the east to the Midwest as a child. He was adopted by a farm family, Bob’s great-grandparents, the mother full Cherokee and the father a former Indian scout for the military. John was sent to Alton Military Academy for high school, spent some time in the service in the early 1900s, then married, producing my mother-in-law before passing away at thirty-three. I guess the military influence in our family began right here. So, thank you Grandpa John. I hope we have made you proud as you made us.

Robert Leo Hansen ~ My husband Bob’s Father

Loyola Marymount Marching Band

Rob Hansen with his sister and brother

Rob and Bill ~ They would remain close friends for more than 50 years

Robert Hansen was the youngest of three children. He went from playing the trombone in the Loyola marching band to fighting for our freedom in just a matter of months. My mother-in-law Lucy married Rob in the midst of World War II, while they were both barely out of their teens. Two days later, he was shipped overseas. When my father-in-law would tell his stories of that time, I could only imagine how Granny, his mother, must have felt. Now I know.

Bernice and Charles Casas ~ My parents

My parents married in 1940. Four years later, my dad was on his way overseas to fight in a war. Both my parents were scared and lonely for one another. How do I know? I have read all one hundred and twenty-two letters my father wrote to my mother while they were apart. My mother saved them and never told anyone. When she died, she left my oldest sister all her jewelry, my younger sisters received expensive artwork and furniture. Her handwritten will simply stated I was to get any and all paper. My mother was amazingly wise. She knew me better than I could have ever imagined. She left me the most valuable things she owned. They are now the most valuable thing I own.

The Letters

Luis Casas ~ One of my father's brothers

One of the many stories my father would tell throughout his eighty-nine years, was of the time he was overseas in the middle of nowhere. He and his shipmates had survived many attacks from the enemy but now they faced a new battle…hunger. The ship was running out of supplies and had been cut off from receiving any new shipments. Then one day, out of nowhere, a merchant marine ship appeared. My dad said he knew instantly that his brother Louie was on that ship with supplies. He talked his commander into allowing him to take a small crew over to the marine ship, where sure enough, my Uncle Louie had food ready to send back with my dad. I think of this story often, especially when purchasing fresh fruit and milk, just two of the things my dad never forgot receiving from his brother out in the middle of nowhere.
Joseph Janowicz ~ Vietnam Veteran

When I was about eleven years old, my cousin was engaged to be married. Joe Janowicz was a fine soul. A while back, I wrote this post about how he and his service to our country affected my life then and now. I am including it here in honor of Joe today.

John Robert Leo Hansen ~ Our Middle Son
Bob, John, Me, Andrew and Matthew ~ Naval Academy Graduation
Placing of the boards with Amy, John's now wife ~ Yes, I am crying
When our middle son, John was sixteen years old, he told us he wanted to join the Navy. We did not want him to join the Navy. Or the Army. Or the Marines. Or anything else where he had to carry a gun and possibly shoot people or be shot at. He was adamant, joining the military was what he was suppose to do. His grandfathers had done it and he felt he needed to do it. It was something deep in his heart that we didn’t understand. We think we do now. Maybe not. Either way, we are extremely proud of our Popeye. He enlisted after graduation, at seventeen years old. A few years later he was picked up by the Naval Academy. Tomorrow, John Robert Leo Hansen will put on Lieutenant. You amaze us, son. You have done us proud. All of us.
Matthew Charles Hansen ~ Our oldest son
In Iraq

Matthew and John
Shortly after 9/11, our oldest son told us he was joining the Army. He was married with two children and had a nice house and a good job. We did everything possible to talk him out of it. We were scared. No, we were terrified. The last time we pleaded with him to not do this, he responded with, “How can I ever explain to my children that I sat at home and did nothing while other men stood up for our country?” We never pleaded again. We prayed and still do. Matthew, like his brother John, is a helicopter pilot. He has been to Iraq and understands the severity of this awful war. He has seen first hand the price that has been paid. We make no excuses or arguments for any of the awfulness of war. We simply stand with our son and thank God for the lives that have been spared while weeping for the lives that have been lost.
Joshua R. Rodgers ~ A Good Man

Finally, I want to honor someone who is not technically a part of our family but who will always remain in the heart of this family.
Joshua Rodgers was our son Matthew’s friend. They were both Chinook helicopter pilots. Matthew was flying missions in Iraq while Josh was flying missions in Afghanistan. On May 30, 2007, Josh and his crew were shot down. There were no survivors. To say our hearts broke for his wife Casey and their three little girls, well, there just are no words. Joshua lived his life out loud. Just a few short weeks before his death, he sent Matthew an email detailing what is important in life. He urged Matthew to live that way, focused on what matters. Josh’s life and subsequent death changed Matthew’s life…all of our lives…forever. Thank you Josh, for living your life focused on what matters. Every year since that fateful day, on May 30th we plant a Double Delight Rose bush. It is Josh’s garden. Walking by and smelling their sweet aroma reminds us that the fragrance of Josh’s life remains. It always will.


Kfred said...


From me, no wise-ass retorts, smart aleck observations, or attempts at going one better.

Awesome. Thank you.

CousinLinda said...

What a beautiful way to celebrate Memorial Day!

Ms. Anthropy said...

Oh, Marla, what a truly inspirational post, your words and photos. What I wouldn't give to have all those letters, passed down from someone in my family. What a treasure! Your boys and their service... God bless them.

Monkey Man said...

Truly inspirational on this day we need to remember those who served and serve. Thank you.

Oklahoma Granny said...

Your post brought tears to my eyes. Today I have thought a lot about and prayed for each man and woman who is currently serving in the military and also for their families. I've also thought a lot about those who have served this country throughout history. My dad served in the Navy during WWII. My brother served in the Navy during the Cold War. A week ago today I happened to meet a VietNam veteran at an amusement park. Before we parted ways I made sure to thank him for his service. It brought tears to his eyes.

Brian Miller said...

thank you to all those in your family that have reason to be proud of them...

Cheeseboy said...

Incredible. You have such a great family heritige to live up to. (I can not spell heretige for the life of me.I am such a poor excuse for a teacher) You should be proud, as I am sure you are by the fact that the post says you are.

MindyBB said...

I love the picture of your mom and dad! What a great family...I NEED a trip woman when are we going?! Tell the boys we so appreciate him and can't wait to see M & M one of these days while they are back on OK land! Love you dear! Tag your it!

marcime said...

Marla - how absolutely interesting! What a fantastic read - how proud you must be - how scared you must be - every one has to fulfill their own destiny it seems...

Ms. Anthropy said...

Marla, brought hubby to your post. Being an Army veteran himself, he wanted me to tell you how impressed he is with both of your sons patriotism and unselfish devotion to their nation. That you must be so proud, and he wanted me to tell you how grateful he is. (he is telling me this to type, he won't touch my laptop)

aLmYbNeNr said...

This is beautiful, Marla. Thanks for sharing.

Lily Robinson said...

Thank you for sharing this with us. Mr J's nephew is a helicopter pilot. He was flying black hawks in Iraq & Afghanistan. I wonder if his and your son's paths have crossed.

Tell your sons that I thank them from the bottom of my heart for what they do.

Marla said...

Ok Granny ~ You did the right thing. So many were never welcomed home. We owe them that much...and more.

Mindy ~ Just say when!!

Amber ~ Thank you!

Jingle said...

I am proud of your family members,
cool post!

Two Shades of Pink said...

This is more than beautiful. Thank you for this incredibly inspirational post.

Silver Strands said...

Oh my Marla. I'm speechless. Thank you so much for your sacrifices, and please pass a long a huge thank you to your sons.

Thank you for this very poignant post.

Love, Denalee

Unknown Mami said...

You have so much to be proud of. This post left me with a lump in my throat.

Enchanted Oak said...

I'm proud of your husband's family, your family, and your sons, as well as Josh. Thank you for posting this. It is beautiful and moving.

Nicole said...

Beautiful stories. Thanks for sharing.

Joanna Jenkins said...

Having your mother and father's letters are such a wonderful, heart-felt gift. Such a treasure.

This was a lovely post with great pictures and history. Thanks a million for sharing and remebering Memorial Day.


TechnoBabe said...

Your mother knew you were the one who would appreciate the letters and photos. Your post is one of the best ones I have seen for Memorial Day, a tribute to the military people in your family and a dear friend too.

Six Feet Under Blog said...

How neat. I havent seen old photos of he family for sometime. Makes me want to!

Marla said...

Jingle ~ Thank you!

Denalee ~ They appreciate your kind thoughts. It means a lot.

Nicole ~ Thanks!

Techno ~ My mom definately knew what makes me tick, more than I knew.

Jingle said...

two awards on the bottom,
many thanks!

Far Side of Fifty said...

This was a wonderfully moving Memorial Day many heros in your family! I love that you Mom left you her letters..what a gift! :)

Mrs4444 said...

Wow-I am very impressed. The Naval Academy? I just learned that a very impressive young man from our high school did NOT get into the N.A. That says a lot for your son, but of course, I appreciate them both. I also appreciate you, because families make their own sacrifices when their sons/daughters join the military. Thanks.