Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Veterans Day

Veterans Day is a time to honor those who have served, are serving, and will serve in our nation's armed forces.  In keeping with this tradition, the following is a brief history of my own family's service, which began in the Revolutionary War, and has continued to the present day.

The tradition of military service is very strong in the Schumaker family.  Members of my extended family have served honorably in the military at least as far back as the mid-18th Century.  My 4th Great Grandfather, George Shoemaker, served in the Fairfax Militia in 1758 and, during the Revolutionary War, in Captain Baxter's Company of Rockingham Militia.  Non-patrilineal ancestors, such as my 5th Great Grandfather, Nathan Fish, served under George Washington, as did my 4th Great Grandfather, Samuel Logan.  During the 18th, 19th and early 20th Centuries, most of my direct ancestors were farmers and clergy, and, with the exception of the Turners, appear not to have entered military service.  This changed, however, with the beginning of the Second World War. 

My Father
My father, Fred L Schumaker, 
served as a Captain in the Army Engineers from 1943 to 1946.  He designed topographic models of Pacific Islands, including one of Iwo Jima, for the Marines to use in invasion planning.  My Uncle Joe Matthews also joined the Army during the war, serving as an Infantry officer in the Pacific Theater.  My Uncle Jack Flowers served in the Army during the Korean War, and my Uncle Shirley Dean Flowers was an Air Force pilot for much of the Cold War.

Over the years, the family has also endured its share of sacrifice.  During the Civil War, my Great Grandfather, Frederick Samuel Turner, fought for the Union.  He was captured by the Confederates, but survived the war and lived to the ripe old age of 77.  His brother, my Great Granduncle, George Butler Turner, was not so lucky.  He could have bought his way out of the Union draft by paying $300, but he volunteered instead.  He was killed at the Battle of Missionary Ridge in 1863, but not before leaving a detailed chronicle of his military experiences in hundreds of letters sent back to his parents. 

Ned Dybvig
Perhaps most tragically, my cousin, Ned Turner Dybvig, was killed in action in Vietnam.  Ned was a talented artist and an athlete, and a graduate of Cornell.  He was in top physical shape and highly intelligent.  He was an outdoorsman and skydived for fun.  He was drafted, and joined the 101st Airborne in 1967.  He was killed in a firefight near the ancient capital of Hue in April of 1968. 

Finally, of course, I was also drafted into the Army in October of 1969.  I served for four years, somehow making it through Basic Training at Fort Ord without being "recycled," taking Russian for 15 months at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, and then serving for three years at the White House Communications Agency.  My experience in the Army set me on the path to a Foreign Service career.  

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