Tuesday, March 17, 2015

There's Something About a Man in Uniform

The Hatch family has been a military family for many generations. Over the years, we had heard some talk of having ancestors who had fought both in the American Revolution and the Civil War. I decided to start looking for the allusive family member who was the American Revolutionist. After much genealogical research, I discovered that my fourth great grandfather, Alexander Hatch, had served in that war and through him, I was eligible to be a Daughter of the American Revolution (DAR). 

I applied last fall, was accepted and was inducted into the George W. Kendall Chapter in Boerne, in February. Now I will have to begin my search for the ancestor who fought in the Civil War.

My dad’s uncles served in World War II and his Uncle Lawton was a Prisoner of War in Stalag 9B in Bad Orb, Germany, about 30 miles from Frankfurt. After he was captured, he and the rest of his group were forced to march for two days, moving towards their place of imprisonment. During that time, they were only given a little piece of hardtack to eat. They ate snow to stay hydrated. 

They continued to the next point, where they were put in a boxcar for a four-day ride. Sixty men were crammed into the car, which comfortably fit only 25. At one point they were in the rail yards and the RAF came over and bombed the area. They were locked into the car and basically, left to die.

He ended up at Stalag 9B. This particular camp was known as one of the worst Prisoner of War Camps that held American POW’s. It also held Italians, French, Serbians and Russians. Uncle Lawton said the conditions were horrible. There were windows but many of them did not have glass, and there was no heat. The food was the worst and he lost 30 pounds while in confinement.

During this time, he and the others heard very little about what was going on with the war. But eventually, some British soldiers came to the camp. They had some way of finding out information, so they kept the troops up to date on what was happening. They were eventually liberated, but Uncle Lawton wasn’t clear on the details of how all that happened. He came home, spent a few days processing out and then was allowed to go home to his family. An experience he would never forget.

My Grandpa Hatch wanted to serve in the military, but for health reasons he was not able to. So he did the next best thing. He became a Civil Service Fireman at Pope Field, which made him feel he was part of something important. He was also a volunteer fireman, for years, in Southern Pines, North Carolina.

My dad, James Vernon Hatch, was career Air Force but if he had not been pressured by a buddy, I wonder if he would have joined at all. In another one of those “things I never knew” scenarios, I asked my father why he decided to go into the Air Force. He said his buddy Harold, now deceased, kept bugging him to go join and he kept telling him no. At the time he said he was happy working at the local Modern Market, living at home, and dating, but his friend kept insisting. So in order to appease him, he went with him to the Post Office, met with the recruiter, and took the entrance exam. They were told they had made perfect scores. (Dad said “Yeah, right!”)

Anyway, the recruiter said there was a waiting list to get in, so he told the boys to go on about their lives and he would call when it was time to go to Raleigh for the physical and induction. Dad said he was still not going but Harold kept prodding. They got the call several weeks later, got on the train and went to Raleigh. Dad said they took the “ridiculous” short physical (Can you hear me? Yes?…Good, you’re alive. Welcome!). They ended up in a room with a bunch of other folks and he held his ground that he was still not going, when in comes an officer. “Please raise your right hand and repeat after me…etc. etc. ….so help me God. Congratulations, please go through that door and a bus will take you to the airport for Texas.” Hey, wait a minute! Texas? Dad said he didn’t have any clothes except what he had on, hardly any money and kept asking Harold, “What have you gotten us into?” 

Dad, early Air Force picture 
At this point, he had to call his mother and tell her what had just happened because she had no idea that he was joining the Air Force. By the looks of things, I don’t think dad had any idea either. But off they go to do their basic training in San Antonio and 21.5 years later he retired, having had a great military career. He was in communications, which took him all over the world. He received numerous awards, including: First Sergeant of the 2008th Communications Squadron and Airman of the Month for both the 740th AC&W Squadron and the 26th Air Division.

He retired a Senior Master Sergeant but I am certain he would have gone on to be a Chief had his daughter not made his life miserable around the spring of 1975. You see, the Air Force had decided to close the base where dad was stationed, and move everyone to Scott AFB in Illinois, right as I was to start my senior year in high school. So I threw a bloody fit. Dad had already served the amount of time required to retire, so he put in his papers to do just that, before the move to Illinois had to be made. As it turned out, the Air Force decided to wait another year before closing the base and told dad he could stay in for that time and then he would have to retire. So in 1976, he officially retired, out of Richards Gebaur AFB, in Kansas City, Missouri.

The things you do for your children! I know I have not said it enough...thank you dad! Not only for your service to our country but for being my dad! You are my hero, in oh so many ways!

Today's Terri's Tidbit: There is an app you can download that can help you raise funds for your favorite school. It is called Shoparoo. You simply download it, choose your school, take a picture of your receipts from a grocery retailer and points will be given that will earn them money. Receipts from stores other than a grocery retailer are entered into a monthly drawing for $1,000 that goes to a randomly selected, registered school. Lots of parents, grandparents and friends are taking advantage of this easy way to raise funds. Check it out here and start helping your favorite school now!

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