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.
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
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.